South Carolina abortion ban allowed as high court hears challenge

By Brendan Pierson and Nate Raymond

(Reuters) - A South Carolina judge on Tuesday declined to block the state's ban on abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy while the state's highest court considers a challenge to it by Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

Judge L. Casey Manning in Richland County made the decision after the Republican-led state petitioned to have the case heard by the state's top court immediately, rather than work its way through appeals. Manning said he would ask the high court to take up the case.

The state is among the roughly half nationally that have sought or are expected to seek to ban or curtail abortions following the U.S. Supreme Court's June 24 decision to overturn the 1973 ruling Roe v. Wade that guaranteed a national right to abortion.

"The court's refusal to block this cruel and unconstitutional law is another blow to South Carolinians' reproductive freedom," Planned Parenthood and the other plaintiffs said in a joint statement.

But South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, a Republican, in a statement said the South Carolina Supreme Court should hear the "monumental case."

South Carolina in 2021 enacted a law banning abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected, around six weeks, but it was blocked in the federal courts. However, a federal judge allowed the law to take effect after the Supreme Court's ruling last month.

The ruling has prompted a flurry of litigation and legislative activity nationally over abortion access.

Also on Tuesday a group of abortion providers filed a new lawsuit in Georgia state court challenging that state's six-week ban, which a federal court recently upheld. In Louisiana, a judge declined to put on hold an order blocking its abortion ban while the state appeals it.

In Massachusetts, the Democratic-controlled legislature meanwhile approved a bill to safeguard access to abortion, protect abortion providers who provide services to out-of-state patients and expand access to contraception.

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York and Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Cynthia Osterman)