Is South Carolina Sneakily Trying To Impose More Restrictive Abortion Regulations?
After a reddit user posted about the proposed changes, a government spokesperson admitted “errors.”
Earlier this week, a reddit user posted about a series of proposed legislative restrictions on abortion rights in South Carolina. Though the changes were made public, they appear not have been publicized.
Jeff Taillon, spokesperson for the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), said the proposed changes were sent to “abortion clinic licensees and known stakeholders” in the spring, but did not to speak to any efforts made by the agency to alert constituents. The reddit user told Dose she learned of the changes through Planned Parenthood.
The proposed changes would alter South Carolina’s Regulation 61–12, Standards For Licensing Abortion Clinics, which has not been updated since 1996. A draft filed on September 23rd contained major modifications to current legislation, including new language requiring married women who seek abortions to provide written consent from their husbands and undergo mandatory STI testing. The proposed legislation also calls for clinics to staff at least one OB/GYN board-certified physician with admitting privileges at a local hospital or possess a signed agreement with an OB/GYN, ensuring their availability during all operating hours.
It would seem that reddit’s vigilante call to action was successful. Yesterday Jennifer Read, a spokesperson for the DEHC, released a statement to CBS News saying, “As a result of comments received during the current public comment period, we realized there were two errors in the language of the existing draft revision. We apologize for any confusion or concern these errors may have caused.”
Jeff Taillon, another DHEC spokesperson, confirmed the same to Dose.
The “errors” include the requirement for a husband’s written consent. State law already requires a husband’s consent for an abortion performed in the third trimester, but such late-term terminations can only occur in hospitals.
The DHEC will also excise the STI testing requirement. The agency has not yet commented on whether or not it will move forward with the OB/GYN admitting privileges proposal.
During the summer of 2015, anti-abortion activists released videos that purported to show Planned Parenthood conducting illegal sales of fetal body parts. The videos were later proven to have been doctored, but not before many states?—?South Carolina included?—?launched investigations into Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood was eventually cleared of all wrongdoing.
Back in May of this year, South Carolina became the 17th state to pass new legislation making it illegal for women to seek abortions after 20 weeks, even in cases of rape and incest.
On Tuesday, Oct. 18, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, one of three abortion providers located in South Carolina, released a statement responding to the state’s new legislative proposals. Vicki Ringer, Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, writes:
“The South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control (DHEC) recently proposed a series of extreme regulations for abortion providers. Many of these proposed changes are medically unnecessary, unconstitutional and clearly designed to further impede a woman’s ability to make the deeply personal decision to seek safe, legal abortion.”
Requiring spousal consent before obtaining an abortion was previously ruled unconstitutional back in 1992 in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey. This past June, the Supreme Court ruled on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt and overturned a Texas law requiring abortion clinics to have a physician with admitting privileges in-house.
Abortion providers already offer STI testing, but abortion-rights activists argue that forcing abortion seekers to get tested is a tactic designed to shame and demean women. The new regulations further require that women seeking abortions must receive a Pap smear, which is problematic as those tests are ill advised for women under the age of 21.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, three out of every 10 women will undergo an abortion procedure before turning 45. In 2011, 93% of South Carolina counties were not equipped with an abortion clinic, even though 72% of the women in South Carolina lived within those county lines. South Carolina was also recorded as having the 12th-highest number of teen births amongst women ages 15 to 19.
Sarah Eldred, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, told Dose she attributes the proposed legislation to “part of a pattern of chipping away at the right to safe and legal abortion.”
In the original reddit post, user Series_of_Accidents explains her motivation for posting about the new legislation: The South Carolina regulatory body will accept public comments on the proposed changes through October 24th. According to the original post, the proposed changes were not publicized and the information regarding the updates was not easily accessible.
Indeed, I only succeeded in finding the draft by visiting this site and typing “4669” to retrieve the document.
In spreading the news through reddit, Series_of_Accidents wrote that she hopes the information “might get more traction…and hopefully reach more South Carolinians.”
After public comments close on October 25th, a public hearing will take place, likely in December. From there, recommendations will be referred to the South Carolina General Assembly for consideration. Regardless of the outcome, Sarah Eldred promises, “Planned Parenthood is committed to keeping our doors open no matter what and fighting against medically unnecessary, politically-motivated regulations in any form.”