South Carolina Is Banning Abortions After 6 Weeks — When Most People Don’t Even Know They’re Pregnant

Photo: Sean Rayford/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images.
Following states like Louisiana, Ohio, and Missouri, South Carolina has moved to ban nearly all abortions under a fetal heartbeat law. The legislation, called the South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act, requires doctors to perform ultrasounds on individuals seeking abortions: if they detect a heartbeat, they cannot go through with the procedure, except in instances of fetal anomalies, rape and incest, or life-threatening danger. 
But perhaps most importantly, under the new act, many people would become unable to get abortions after around six weeks — that is, just two weeks after a missed period.
“This is just a straight-up abortion ban. The reality is that most folks don’t find out they are pregnant until after six weeks,” Oriaku Njoku, co-founder and executive director of Access Reproductive Care — Southeast, previously told Refinery29 when Georgia moved to enact the same bill. “It’s a calculated attack, going on all throughout the country, to eliminate access to abortion.” Plus, even patients who know they’re pregnant early on “often must take time to save up funds, request time off of work, and find childcare for their kids if they are a parent,” according to the Greenville Women’s Center.
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The South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act wouldn’t criminalize people receiving illegal abortions, but doctors could be sentenced up to two years and fined $10,000. In cases of rape and incest, doctors will also be mandated to pass the their patient’s name and information to law enforcement. As critics have pointed out, between the combination of forced police involvement and a mandatory, invasive ultrasound, even rape survivors who successfully undergo the procedures will likely be further traumatized, picked apart, and attacked.
The bill was passed in the South Carolina House on Wednesday, and Republican Governor Henry McMaster signed it into law on Thursday. But there was no doubt he would: McMaster, who once called Planned Parenthood an “abortion machine,” has made the crusade against reproductive rights his main focus for years. “Soon, we will make South Carolina the most pro-life state in the country!” he tweeted in January.
Democratic members of the Senate walked out of the chamber in protest. “Make no mistake: the GOP is not pro-life. They are pro-birth,” wrote House Democratic Leader Todd Rutherford, who pointed out that his Republican counterparts are prioritizing a dangerous bill over the COVID-19 pandemic that has left 8,000 South Carolinians dead. “We will not vote for this blatantly unconstitutional bill and call on our Republican colleagues to denounce it.”
South Carolina is the thirteenth state to pass a fetal heartbeat act; the first dozen are all embroiled in court. The legislation will go into effect if the Supreme Court, now armed with Trump-appointed conservatives like Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, were to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights have already moved to sue the state. “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,” Alexis McGill Johnson, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, wrote in a statement. “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.”

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