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COLUMBIA, S.C. — Today, the South Carolina Senate passed the House’s amended version of Senate Bill 474, a bill that will ban abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy, which is before many people know they are pregnant. Governor McMaster is expected to sign the bill into law.

“South Carolina lawmakers are playing politics with people’s lives, blocking access to essential health care while ignoring soaring rates of maternal and infant mortality in our state,” said Jenny Black, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic. “We will not stand by while politicians put people’s lives in danger and take away fundamental human rights. So we say to the state of South Carolina: We’ll see you in court.” 

“This is a devastating blow to South Carolinians and to an entire region where patients’ options for accessing abortion continue to dwindle,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “South Carolina lawmakers have gone against the will of their constituents, ignored the state Supreme Court, and wasted taxpayer dollars in an unnecessary special session, all to pass a law that they know is unconstitutional and will hurt the people they serve. Out-of-touch politicians will not have the last word. Planned Parenthood and its partners are prepared to challenge this six-week ban in court once again. We will always fight back when people are stripped of their personal freedom and bodily autonomy.”

S. 474’s six-week ban is even more onerous than the abortion ban struck down by the South Carolina Supreme Court in January. Under the bill, people would only be allowed to obtain an abortion past the earliest stages of pregnancy under narrow circumstances, including

  • In the event of a serious risk of substantial, irreversible impairment of a major bodily function to the pregnant person, or if performed to prevent their death;
  • In the case of a diagnosis of a fatal fetal anomaly;
  • In certain cases of sexual assault or incest only up to the twelfth week of pregnancy and only if the doctor reports the assault to the sheriff in the county where the abortion is provided, potentially against the wishes of the patient.

The bill also:

  • Defines life as beginning with a fertilized egg, which is before it implants in the uterus, or before the medical community considers a person to be pregnant
  • Subjects providers to automatic licensing revocation and empowers government actors to bring civil in addition to criminal charges for violations 
  • Requires the biological father to pay child support and 50% of all pregnancy expenses

Abortion is already difficult to access in South Carolina, with only three abortion clinics in the state and a range of limitations on access imposed by state lawmakers. South Carolina ranks 43rd – in the bottom 10 of all states – with the highest maternal mortality rates. Women here are three times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than the average U.S. woman. And the crisis is even more dire for Black women in the state, who are four times more likely to die after giving birth than white women. 

A new report from ANSIRH shows how health care providers have been unable to provide the standard of care in states with abortion bans since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, leading to harm and negative health outcomes for patients.

According to the South Carolina Health Professions Data book, 15 counties in South Carolina lack OB-GYN doctors. Five other counties have just one OB-GYN doctor, according to a December report by the state Office for Healthcare Workforce. It’s likely this ban will only worsen these gaps, as providers choose not to practice in states with abortion bans.

Many patients who already face barriers to health care due to systemic discrimination and racism — especially Black, Latino, and Indigenous people, LGBTQ+ people, and people with lower incomes, who live in rural areas, or who are young — will be harmed the most by a ban. While some patients have or will find the resources to travel out of state for their abortions, many will not. Some may decide to self-manage their abortion without clinical support; others may decide that they must carry their pregnancy to term and face the health risks that come with that life-altering decision.