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A judge ruled that South Carolina can implement a six-week abortion ban while there is disagreement over when a heartbeat begins

Judge Daniel Coble listens to the arguements (Via Kane Hamill/Shutterstock)

A judge in the state has decided that South Carolina can enforce a law prohibiting nearly all abortions around six weeks after conception while an appeal examines the exact definition of a heartbeat under the law.

Planned Parenthood had requested that the law be put on hold as courts interpret its language, which includes different explanations of when cardiac activity begins. This could potentially extend the timeframe after which abortions are no longer allowed under the law passed in 2023.

The law states that abortions cannot be performed once an ultrasound detects “cardiac activity, or the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart, within the gestational sac.”

Currently, this is interpreted to mean around six weeks after a person’s last period.

Grayson Lambert takes notes in between the arguments (Via Kane Hamill/Shutterstock)

However, the interpretation after the word “or” in the sentence could imply that a heart must have formed, which medical experts say occurs around nine weeks.

Last year, the state Supreme Court acknowledged these different interpretations when it upheld the law, stating that resolving them would be addressed at a later time.

In his recent ruling released Thursday, Circuit Judge Daniel Coble referenced South Carolina’s legal tradition, which gives priority to lawmakers’ intentions when there are disputes over interpreting laws.

Judge Coble noted that lawmakers, including Democrats in the Republican-controlled General Assembly, consistently referred to the ban as a six-week restriction during debates. This consistency was upheld even after adjustments to the law and changes in the judiciary led to its reinstatement last August.

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