MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — South Carolina women will face long drive times to obtain an abortion if state leaders move to ban the procedure — a move that politicians have signaled that they’d like to have happen soon.
The Supreme Court’s vote Friday in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling overturned Roe v. Wade, sending decisions on abortion laws to individual states.
There are 1.2 million women of reproductive age in South Carolina, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Of those, it’s estimated that about one-third live below the poverty line.
The organization currently lists the state’s abortion policies as “restrictive.”
Currently, women have to travel 23 miles each way to their nearest clinic to abort a pregnancy before 14 weeks, according to the Guttmacher Institute. That increases to 86 miles each way for before 20 weeks, 107 miles for before 22 weeks, 427 for before 24 weeks and 492 miles for after 24 weeks.
More than 71% of South Carolina women live in an area without an abortion provider, according to the organization.
Surrounding states such as Georgia and Tennessee are also listed as having “restrictive” abortion laws, with North Carolina ranked as having “some restrictions/protections,” making it the likely destination for South Carolina women seeking an abortion.
Gov. Henry McMaster released a short statement Friday morning in response to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling, emphasizing his support for abortion restrictions in South Carolina.
“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a resounding victory for the Constitution and for those who have worked for so many years to protect the lives of the most vulnerable among us,” he wrote. “By the end of the day, we will file motions so that the Fetal Heartbeat Act will go into effect in South Carolina and immediately begin working with members of the General Assembly to determine the best solution for protecting the lives of unborn South Carolinians.”
Twenty-one states have filed amicus briefs supporting South Carolina’s abortion law, which remains with the courts.
Federal courts have upheld an injunction of the law, which bans most abortions after a “fetal heartbeat” is detected, which can happen at six weeks — before most people realize that they are pregnant.
Current state law bans abortion at 22 weeks gestation or later. Patients must also wait 24 hours after counseling to receive an abortion. Telehealth visits to obtain abortion medication is illegal.
The ACLU of South Carolina retweeted its national organization after Friday’s Supreme Court decision, writing in a thread that “We won’t deny what a horrible moment this is.”
Subsequent tweets said that overturning the right to an abortion will have “serious consequences,” including health risks for mothers, making it harder to get out of poverty, impacting life plans and making it harder to leave abusive partners.
“Women and people who can become pregnant have been forced into a second-class status,” a tweet reads. “Millions of people have been thrown into uncertainty and fear that they may be forced to carry a pregnancy against their will. Today’s decision is a gender, racial and economic justice catastrophe with deadly consequences. Women and people who can become pregnant have been forced into a second-class status.”
The tweets go on to say that Black women will be impacted the most, since they already face higher maternal mortality rates than their white counterparts. LGBTQ people, immigrants and people of color will also be affected, according to the tweets.
“Because of today’s decision, our right to control our own bodies and futures will depend on where we live and who we are,” the tweets read. “Next is a patchwork approach as each state determines abortion rights and an unprecedented crisis with far-reaching impacts on our most basic freedoms. Even for those with resources, traveling out of state to get an abortion will become less of an option as abortion is banned across entire regions.”