Anti-Choice Laws in S. Carolina, Arkansas Among Dozens Headed for Supreme Court

New, highly restrictive abortion laws in Arkansas and South Carolina are only the latest among dozens of anti-choice bills aimed by conservative state lawmakers at testing the limits of Roe v. Wade and the U.S. Supreme Court’s newly conservative majority. In addition to jeopardizing women’s rights to safe and legal abortions, the measures also pose a threat to surrogacy.

As we wrote last year, the hasty confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court less than two weeks ahead of the 2020 presidential election, along with the confirmation of Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, created a 6-3 conservative majority. Red-state conservatives, viewing the Supreme Court’s swing to the right as their chance to advance a decades-long crusade against women’s reproductive rights, have passed dozens of bills—more than 60 in 2021 alone—aimed at challenging Roe v. Wade, the Court’s landmark 1973 decision establishing a woman’s right to an abortion during the first six months of pregnancy.

South Carolina Hopes to Make ‘Fetal Heartbeat’ Laws ‘Mainstream’

One of the most recent in the wave of anti-abortion laws likely headed for the Supreme Court is South Carolina’s S. 1, the SC Fetal Heartbeat Protection from Abortion Act, passed in an expedited process and signed into law by Republican Governor Henry McMaster on February 18, 2021. Just one day later, a federal court judge issued a temporary, two-week stay, which she extended on March 19. In issuing the preliminary injunction, the judge cited 50 years of U.S. Supreme Court decisions defending freedom of choice.

Next step for the state will be a challenge in the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. If denied on appeal, the state’s Attorney General, Alan Wilson, says he is prepared to take his appeal all the way to the Supreme Court.

The new South Carolina law would prohibit abortion from the time cardiac activity can be detected by ultrasound in the womb, with exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. Detection of cardiac activity could occur as early as five or six weeks from conception, before most women are even aware they are pregnant. Physicians who perform abortions after that time would be subject to federal charges, with a maximum 2-year prison sentence.

South Carolina’s new ban would prohibit abortions long before a fetus is viable outside the womb, the principle on which Roe was decided. Rather it applies the “fetal heartbeat” standard as when the baby would be expected to live and be carried to term, similar to other “personhood” legislation being advanced in some states, including Arizona and Louisiana.

Other provisions of the law would require women to undergo an invasive, vaginal ultrasound, and would require physicians to report any cases of rape or incest to law enforcement.

By including the exceptions for rape and incest, which many of the newly enacted abortion laws do not, South Carolina legislators hope to position their bill as a “moderate” or “mainstream” solution, some legal experts say.

“I think lawmakers in South Carolina are sort of trying to position heartbeat bills as the new mainstream, and this heartbeat bill in particular as potentially a more palatable alternative to some of the laws we've seen go onto the books in 2019,” Mary Ziegler, a professor at Florida State University and author of “Abortion and the Law in America: Roe v. Wade to the Present,” told NPR.

South Carolina officials admit the law was designed to test Roe v. Wade before the Supreme Court’s new conservative majority. In his argument against the preliminary injunction, South Carolina Deputy Solicitor General Emory Smith told the judge, “the law is in a state of flux. We have a different (U.S.) Supreme Court, your honor. It’s a different composition.... The law may be what it is right now, but it may be different in another year.”

Arkansas Anti-Abortion Law Direct Challenge to Roe v. Wade

Arkansas’s new anti-choice law, SB 6, signed into law by Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson on March 9, 2021, is even more onerous than South Carolina’s. The law, which Hutchinson admits is designed to overturn Supreme Court case law on abortion, is an absolute ban, containing no exceptions for rape or incest—one of 14 similar bans passed by states in 2021. “It is the intent of the legislation to set the stage for the Supreme Court overturning current case law,” Hutchinson said in a statement, as reported by NBC News. The Arkansas law does make an exception to save the life of the mother.

In signing the bill, Hutchinson expressed reservations about not including the rape and incest exceptions, saying the inclusion of those exceptions might make it more likely the Supreme Court will take the case.

Arkansas has among the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws. Two years ago, the state enacted a total ban on abortions in the state in the event Roe v. Wade is overturned at the federal level. In 2019, state lawmakers passed a bill that would ban abortions in the state after 18 weeks; that law remains tied up with legal challenges. The state legislature currently is considering other measures, including a requirement that any woman seeking an abortion must undergo an ultrasound procedure.

In an opinion piece for CNN.com, abortion law expert Mary Ziegler wrote that the new Arkansas law “isn’t just a law. It’s a letter to the Supreme Court’s conservative, six-justice majority—and a preview of the case against Roe v. Wade.”

Conservative Assault on Abortion Rights Threatens Surrogacy

Things are about to get interesting at the U.S. Supreme Court. South Carolina and Arkansas are only the two most recent salvos in the conservative war on reproductive rights. As reported by Chicago Sun-Times, Montana lawmakers have already passed six anti-abortion laws in 2021, including a total ban after 20 weeks. While some laws, such as the Arkansas ban, are a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, many others seek to chip away at the law, “incrementally,” as Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League, told the Sun-Times. The strategy of the anti-choice movement has changed since his organization was formed in the 1970s: Rather than overturning, Roe v. Wade directly, Scheidler said, “I think we’re more likely to see this court put more restrictions on abortion. I think five years from now we’ll realize that Roe v. Wade was slowly overturned without it ever making a big headline.”

Beyond the attack on the personal autonomy and reproductive choice of women, the prospect is a chilling one for anyone who wants to become a parent through surrogacy, either because of infertility or because they are single or LGBTQ. Every surrogacy agreement lays out criteria agreed to by all parties, on the advice of counsel, for handling some of the more potentially challenging medical decisions, including pregnancy termination in the event of danger to the surrogate’s health or life or in the event of indications of serious genetic disease or significant abnormalities. In those cases, the decision of whether or not to terminate is based on the recommendation of the treating physician in consultation with all parties—as all medical decisions should be.

For us at IFLG, surrogacy and other types of assisted reproduction are life-affirming and miraculous technologies that provide new opportunities and options for fulfilling dreams of parenthood and building families. The decades-long assault on choice and reproductive freedom is not going away, but it has found new weapons in the attempt to destroy those dreams.

I and many of my colleagues have spent year or decades helping families created through surrogacy and working to foster legislation and industry best practices to make assisted reproduction more reliable, safer and accessible to more and more people. That makes the cynical tactics of right-wing politicians, who time their activism to election cycles and the composition of the Court, rather than on what is right for intended parents and families, disheartening and difficult to watch. In making the difficult choice to end a pregnancy or in determining the best interests of all parties in a surrogacy, the safety and welfare of all those involved is paramount. Mandating a medical result by enacting a law—and taking the advice of the physician out of the equation—puts health and safety second to politics and ideology.

President Biden and his administration have promised to defend freedom of choice and to “codify” the protections of Roe v. Wade in federal law. We stand behind their efforts.




Richard Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015, received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension, and obtained her second Master of Science degree in Legal Studies from Loyola Law School. Peiya relocated back to her hometown, Beijing, China in 2019 and works from IFLG’s Beijing office. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University which he received in 2013, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. Luis has worked for IFLG in both Los Angeles as well as San Francisco, and is currently based in Dallas, Texas. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”


Kim has over 30 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

Los Angeles

5757 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 645

Los Angeles, CA 90036

Phone:  +1 323 331 9343

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

New York

501 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1900

New York, NY 10017

Phone:  +1 844 400 2016

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.

Phoebe Sadler

Fertility law attorney Phoebe Sadler has a background in family law and has been practicing exclusively in the area of assisted reproduction technology (ART) law since 2018.

Rubina Aslanyan

Rubina has an extensive background in the legal field as a paralegal in Family Law and has worked in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 2012. Her area of focus is in managing and assisting clients with surrogacy, egg donation, and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s domestic and international clients. During her spare time, Rubina enjoys spending time with her family and dog Bella, traveling and cooking.

Alexander Espinoza
Legal Assistant

Alexander joined IFLG as a legal assistant in 2019, where he manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases. Alex is bilingual in English and Spanish and has been in the legal field for 23 years. Alex is excited to join the IFLG team and pursuing his will to help others in the reproductive law process. In his spare time he loves spending time with his family and friends, being outdoors, road trips, loves music and dancing.

Cara Stecker
Senior Paralegal

After receiving her paralegal certificate in 2005, Cara began working in assisted reproductive law. During the fifteen years Cara has worked in this field, she has gained a wide range of experience and knowledge that she uses to help better assist clients and those involved in the assisted reproductive journey. Cara’s primary roles involve managing parental establishment matters and coordination with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorney network, drafting contracts and parental establishment court documents and providing support to other team members. Cara finds great joy in being a small part of a team of caring people who help others achieve their dream of having a family. In her spare time, Cara enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, watching her children play the sports they love, and she enjoys, running, cycling and exploring the outdoors in the sun.

Stephanie Kimble

Stephanie received her BS in History and Political Thought from Concordia University Irvine in 2015 and her Paralegal Certificate from University of San Diego later that same year. She has been working as a Paralegal since 2016 in Family and Reproductive Law. She is excited to be part of International Fertility Law Group working on managing Surrogacy, Egg donation and Parental Establishment Cases.

Trish Pittman
Assistant Financial Coordinator

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of accounting, Trish joined the IFLG team in 2019 as Assistant Financial Coordinator. Her client-facing focus at IFLG is to assist with all client trust accounting. Trish is the mother of two daughters and enjoys spending time teaching and learning new things from them. In her free time, she loves long walks in the park and reading suspense and mystery novels.

Katie Deaquino
Senior Paralegal

Katie is a Senior Paralegal with IFLG and has dedicated over sixteen years to the areas of surrogacy and reproductive law. She received her Paralegal Certificate from Coastline Community College and has worked with some of the top law firms in the assisted reproduction community. Katie is also a commissioned Notary Public. With IFLG, Katie manages Surrogacy, Egg Donation, and Parental Establishment cases and provides support to other IFLG team members. Katie truly enjoys helping others build their families through assisted reproduction and is thankful she has had the rewarding experience of assisting IFLG clients. Katie often spends her free time with her Husband, four young children and her bulldog “Bella”.

Elsa Jimenez
Legal Assistant

Elsa joined IFLG as a Legal Assistant in 2019, bringing more than 35 years of experience working in the legal profession (concentrating in tort and litigation matters). At IFLG she assists surrogates with their surrogacy and parental matters. The oldest of five siblings, born and raised in East Los Angeles to Mexican immigrant parents, Elsa loves “seeing the beauty of families forming” through assisted reproductive technology. She and her husband Carlos have four children and one grandson. Elsa enjoys jazz and ’80s music, being outdoors in nature, collecting teacups and tea pots, and spending time with her close-knit family.