Burnette Shutt & McDaniel represents Planned Parenthood in new abortion challenge

Burnette Shutt & McDaniel is proud to stand with Planned Parenthood in its continued fight to protect reproductive rights. The firm’s attorneys are part of the legal team in the latest challenge to the state’s draconian abortion law.

This newest action asks the South Carolina Supreme Court to resolve ambiguity it created in upholding an abortion ban that forced doctors to stop providing care after about six weeks of pregnancy.

Burnette Shutt & McDaniel attorneys Malissa Burnette, Kathleen McDaniel, and Grant Burnette LeFever are part of the legal team, along with Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Center for Reproductive Rights. They represent Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Greenville Women’s Clinic and two physicians.

The team has spent five years fighting South Carolina abortion laws, winning previous challenges in state and federal courts.

The latest legal challenge became necessary when, just weeks ago, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed course from a January decision that held that a similar ban violated the right to privacy.

In the August ruling, the all-male Supreme Court upheld the South Carolina “fetal heartbeat” law but noted that its majority opinion was unclear about time limits. A footnote in that opinion said the court would “leave for another day” the meaning of “fetal heartbeat” and at what point the ban applies.

The law defines “fetal heartbeat” as “cardiac activity, or the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart, within the gestational sac.” Electrical cardiac activity usually is detectable on an ultrasound around six weeks of pregnancy. Most people aren’t even aware that they’re pregnant at that point.

The medical consensus, however, views that language as clinically inaccurate. Even the most cautious opinions hold that the major components of what becomes the heart do not form before nine weeks of pregnancy and that the embryo is not a fetus until much later.

Since the August ruling, significant criminal and civil penalties in the law have forced South Carolina physicians to turn away patients who seek care after about six weeks of pregnancy. In the case of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, since the ban went into effect Aug. 23, roughly 90 percent of patients seeking abortions have been turned away.

“At a time when the entire American South has been consumed by abortion bans, the vast majority of South Carolinians now have to travel long distances out of state for abortion care or remain pregnant against their will,” Planned Parenthood said. “The Court may be able to punt on a critical question raised in its own decision to uphold a dangerous abortion ban, but health care providers and patients need answers now.”