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South Carolina politicians ignore dire need for COVID-19 pandemic relief, passing abortion ban that includes provisions targeting sexual assault survivors

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Moments ago, South Carolina politicians passed the first abortion ban of 2021 — a ban on abortion at six weeks of pregnancy. A legal challenge and request for emergency relief is imminent. Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and Greenville Women’s Clinic, represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the law firm Burnette Shutt & McDaniel, P.A. intend to sue in federal court by the end of today, as this abortion ban is set to take effect as soon as Gov. Henry McMaster signs it into law. By banning abortion at just six weeks of pregnancy, before many people know they’re pregnant, the law targets South Carolinians who already struggle to access health care.

This legislation could ban almost all abortions for the nearly 1 million South Carolinians of reproductive age. Under this law, even sexual assault survivors will be barred from having an abortion after approximately six weeks of pregnancy unless doctors report their names to law enforcement, potentially over the survivor’s objection. It is the latest in a concerning trend of state politicians passing extreme abortion bans and restrictions aimed at eliminating abortion access and overturning the constitutional right to abortion established by Roe v. Wade. 

In less than two months, state politicians have introduced or filed abortion bans and restrictions at a staggering pace— more than 200 bills to restrict or ban abortion and counting, more than 40 percent seeking to ban abortion at various points of pregnancy.

Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

“Even after voters elected pro-sexual and reproductive health majorities in both chambers of Congress and the presidency, state legislatures across the country are doubling down on their attempts to systematically block access to abortion. To make a dangerous situation worse, South Carolina politicians just used an abortion ban to target and re-victimize sexual assault survivors — all while the pandemic rages on. This is politics at its worst. Planned Parenthood will continue doing what these elected officials refuse to do: ensure every person has access to basic health care, including abortion, if and when they need it. No matter what.”

Statement from Jenny Black, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic:

“If South Carolina politicians truly cared about the quality of life for women and children, they would get to work to expedite the vaccine rollout, expand Medicaid, and address the dangerously high rates of maternal mortality and infant mortality in the state. South Carolina maintains some of the starkest health disparities in the country, with Black women dying at a far higher rate than white women after they have given birth. Abortion bans disproportionately hurt those that already have the least access to quality health care, including people with low incomes, people of color, people who are LGBTQ, and those who live in rural areas. If this law is allowed to go into effect, it will pose a serious threat to South Carolinians’ health and livelihood."

Statement from Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“This ban blatantly defies nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent protecting a person’s right to end a pregnancy. Many states have passed similar bans in an attempt to send a Roe test case to the Supreme Court, but courts have blocked them all. Yet, the bans keep coming, even in the midst of a pandemic. This ban was the first bill filed in the South Carolina senate this year. There is a new administration in the White House, but reproductive rights are still under attack across the country. We expect many more anti-abortion laws to be passed this year and we will be in court to stop them.”

Statement from Greenville Women’s Clinic:

“Most of our patients don’t even know they’re pregnant until after six weeks. That means this law would act as a total abortion ban for most people in South Carolina. Even for patients who find out before six weeks, they often must take time to save up funds, request time off of work, and find child care for their kids if they are a parent.”

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Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.

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