CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh
As harsh abortion clinic restrictions spread across the South, threatening to leave a large swath of the country without access to reproductive health services, one state is bucking the trend. Lawmakers in South Carolina concluded their legislative session this week without passing measures to further restrict abortion rights.
This year, the South Carolina legislature was considering two of the most popular pieces of legislation to limit access to abortion: a bill to criminalize the procedure after 20 weeks and a bill to require abortion providers to have admitting privileges form local hospitals. On top of that, some lawmakers were pushing extreme measures that could have defined life as beginning at conception. But none of those bills made it to the governor’s desk — giving women’s health groups cause for celebration.
“The bills had little to do with women’s health. They were 100 percent about inserting politics where they don’t belong: into the personal, private medical decisions of a woman,” Jennifer Dalven, the director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement provided to ThinkProgress. “This is a victory for South Carolina women.”
Recent polling found that the majority of South Carolina voters in key districts thought that abortion restrictions were the wrong thing for lawmakers to be focusing on. Those voters made their opinions known. According to Planned Parenthood, over 2,000 South Carolina residents called and emailed their legislators to tell them not to pass more abortion restrictions. Over two dozen medical professionals, researchers, advocates, and female voters testified against the proposed anti-choice bills.
“Today is a victory for the women and men across South Carolina who have stood up to say ‘enough is enough.’ And most importantly, it is a victory for the thousands of women who would have been hurt by these cruel and misguided policies,” Melissa Reed, the vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Health Systems, said in a statement.
However, South Carolina is the exception to the rule, as other states in the southern region of the U.S. have rushed to approve similar dangerous policies. Mississippi recently enacted a 20-week abortion ban, while Louisiana and Oklahoma just approved admitting privilege requirements intended to shutter clinics. And last year, Texas lawmakers infamously passed an omnibus anti-abortion bill that included both of those measures.
On the national level, South Carolina politicians aren’t quite as ready to give up the crusade against reproductive rights. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who introduced a 20-week ban in the Senate last fall, recently started pushing to bring it to a vote.