A South Carolina House Ad Hoc Committee, chaired by State Rep. John McCravy, R-Greenwood, is expected to hold a public hearing in the coming weeks to seek testimony on the impact an abortion ban would have on South Carolinians. The testimony presented will be weighed in consideration with bill H. 5399, which aims to ban abortions altogether. A date has yet to be set for the hearing.
Yet as the country awaits a Supreme Court decision in the Dodds v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, abortion advocacy groups including Planned Parenthood and the Carolina Abortion Fund (CAF), are gearing up for what they speculate may happen in the coming weeks. Here are the takeaways from a virtual meeting held last week:
When will a decision be announced?
A decision is expected in the last week of June, though it may be pushed back into July.
What if Roe is overturned?
If the Supreme Courts upholds Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban and overturns the 1973 precedent decision in Roe v. Wade, abortion is not automatically banned in South Carolina as there is no trigger ban currently in place. It does, however, deny individuals of the constitutional right to abortion.
“Roe was always the floor for a lot of us. It was never the ceiling,” said an employee of the Carolina Abortion Fund who asked not to be named. “But thinking about losing that very basic structure that establishes that abortions can’t be banned in any state — that’s terrifying.”
Up to 26 states could quickly ban or heavily restrict abortion following the decision, according to the Guttmacher Institute. In South Carolina, it’s speculated that Attorney General Alan Wilson and Governor Henry McMaster will immediately file a motion to lift the injunction currently in place on the state’s six-week ban. This could be granted in a few days or a few weeks.
Could South Carolina ban abortions altogether?
It’s entirely possible. Gov. McMaster has previously stated he would support an abortion ban without exceptions for rape and incest. McCravy along with James Lucas, R-Darlington, G. Murrell Smith Jr., R-Sumter, Travis Moore, R-Spartanburg, Brian White, R-Anderson and Thomas Ligon, R-Chester, though, have already sponsored H. 5399, a bill that aims to entirely ban abortions.
What if you already have an abortion appointment?
If you have an appointment and Roe is overturned, you should be okay to move forward with the appointment. Abortion will not yet be illegal in South Carolina.
If your appointment falls on a date after Roe has been overturned and the injunction on South Carolina’s six-week ban has been lifted, then you can still show up for your appointment. But, if any embryonic sounds are picked up (typical by six weeks of pregnancy), then you will not be able to receive an abortion.
As a result of the second scenario, patients will have to travel to another state. (The closest state expected to still have abortion access, at least initially, will be North Carolina. Patient call volume in that state is expected to increase by 4,000%, according to CAF.)
What we don’t know
Will abortion clinics still be able to operate?
“Of the three abortion clinics in South Carolina, two are Planned Parenthoods and one is independent, the Greenville Women’s Clinic,” said the CAF employee. “Whether or not they’re allowed to operate in South Carolina will depend on what laws are passed [in the state].” In all likelihood, clinics will remain open until state laws have been introduced and passed that could impact their ability to open.
What if you cross state lines to get an abortion?
According to advocacy groups, it is not out of the realm of possibility that S.C. legislators will attempt to criminalize traveling out-of-state to receive abortion care.
“We have had kind of glimpses of what criminalizing pregnancy outcomes might look like, and it’s going to disproportionately fall on Black and Brown individuals, which we know from a myriad of other cases and the way our legal system often operates,” said the CAF employee. “You should always be able to get care where you live. We’re a fund that serves both states (North and South Carolina). We will help people get to North Carolina if they need to. But they should be able to have it where they live.”
What can be done?
Stay up-to-date on the hearing by following Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN), scwren.org. Keep a look out for an announcement date of the South Carolina Ad Hoc Committee hearing and attend if you’d like to speak. The CAF employee also said investing in abortion funds, keeping clinics open and agitating at the state level are ways to continue fighting for abortion rights. “[If Roe is overturned] I don’t want people to hear the news and immediately shut down and think: ‘It’s over. There’s nothing we can do,’” she added. “No, let’s figure out how we’re going to make our voices heard.”
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