South Carolina joins the ultra restrictive South of the U.S. making abortions almost impossible

South Carolina joins the ultra restrictive South of the U.S. making abortions almost impossible
May 3, 2022. Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images.


Sophie Flemming

Women’s Rights Researcher, 

Global Human Rights Defence.

In South Carolina, five women senators tried to block the passing of a ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy but couldn’t hinder its way to the Governor anymore. Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the ruling of Roe v. Wade from 1973 and herewith returned the legislation over abortion to the States’ power, the abortion restrictions increased rapidly (Zernike & Sasani, 2023). The Senate Bill 474, also known as “Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act,” is used to ban most abortions after early cardiac activity can be detected in a fetus or embryo, commonly as early as six weeks into pregnancy (Kashiwagi et al., 2023). 

The bill first underwent many changes which represents the divisions among Republicans over how far to go in restricting abortion. The women, who tried to filibuster the bill, pledged for a compromise on a 12-week ban. Their counterparts rejected this proposal, saying that this would lead to “abortion on demand”. Then two of the five women agreed on a six week ban with exceptions such as for medical emergencies, cases of rape and a prolongation for minors. The House in turn added amendments which included the requirement for multiple doctors’ visits and ultrasounds (Zernike & Sasani, 2023).

Since a pregnancy starts at the first day after the last period of the woman, the ban gives pregnant women a possible span for an abortion of two weeks while the wait for an appointment at the three available clinics in South Carolina is two to three weeks long. Therefore, this bill jeopardizes the possibility for an abortion almost completely. In addition, the bill provides that any physician who violates the law may have his or her license to practice medicine revoked (Zernike & Sasani, 2023), which in the past has led to the unnecessary deaths of women with a complication in pregnancy because physicians were afraid to perform an abortion (Simmons-Duffin, 2022).

Abortion is banned or severely restricted in much of the South, including bans throughout pregnancy in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. These stricter bans across the South will put pressure on Virginia’s role as an access point as people travel from out of state to seek care. Virginia currently allows abortions in the first and second trimesters and in the third trimester it is only allowed if three doctors certify the mother’s mental or physical health is at serious risk. “Despite abortion providers’ efforts to increase available appointments and expand access for patients through telemedicine, the dramatic influx in out-of-state patients will lead to longer wait times for people in those access states,” Lockhart, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, said (Lavoie & Rankin & Kruesi, 2023).

Advocates for abortion-rights now want to challenge the ban in court in reference to a ruling that found a right to abortion in the Constitution (Zernike & Sasani, 2023). South Carolina already had a ban in effect after the court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade which was in turn overturned by the state's highest court because it violated the state Constitution's right to privacy (The Associated Press, 2023). But their chances of success are still low since the governor of South Carolina, Henry McMister, already announced that he would sign the bill writing on Twitter he looks “forward to signing this bill into law as soon as possible” (Kashiwagi et al., 2023). Vicki Ringer, the director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said "twenty-seven Republican men (all of them) voted today to ban abortion in SC, (…) I'm gutted. Because women will die. Full stop" (Armstrong, 2023).

Sources and further readings:

Armstrong, K. (May 25, 2023). South Carolina approves six-week abortion ban for most women. Retrieved on May 25, 2023 from

Kashiwagi, S. et al. Migrant-Rights (May 24, 2023). South Carolina legislature sends 6-week abortion ban to governor’s desk. Retrieved on May 25, 2023 from

Lavoie, D. & Rankin, S. & Kruesi, K. (May 25, 2023). South Carolina moves closer to abortion ban, a Southern trend that puts pressure on Virginia. Retrieved on May 25, 2023, from

Simmons-Duffin, S. (November 23, 2022). Doctors who want to defy abortion laws say it's too risky. Retrieved on May 26, 2023 from

The Associated Press (May 23, 2023). South Carolina is poised to renew its 6-week abortion ban. Retrieved on May 25, 2023 from

Zernike, K. & Sasani, A. (May 23, 2023). South Carolina Senate Passes 6-Week Abortion Ban. Retrieved on May 25, 2023, from