CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - After South Carolina’s so-called fetal heartbeat law went into effect following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood says it has seen an increase in patients wanting to be seen earlier.
Vicki Ringer, the director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Carolina, says it’s been “quite difficult” for patients.
“They’re scared, they’re confused, they don’t understand this legal landscape that they suddenly find themselves in, because young women don’t know a world where they did not have all of their reproductive rights,” Ringer said. “Older women have fought since the beginning to protect those rights.”
The South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat Protection From Abortion Act, which Republican Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law in February 2021, had been blocked from being enforced since right after McMaster signed it. A federal judge lifted a stay on the enforcement of the law on June 27, days after the Supreme Court ruling that returned decisions about abortion rights to the states.
The law outlaws abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected and requires the mother view an ultrasound, hear the child’s heartbeat, and receive information about the child’s development. The law does allow for exceptions for rape or incest as long as the fetus is fewer than 20 weeks, and when abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother.
There are three abortion clinics in the state, including the Planned Parenthood in West Ashley.
Ringer said they have had to help many of their patients make appointments in other states, usually North Carolina. North Carolina is the closest state that still has legally protected abortion. Planned Parenthood is working with abortion funds that help patients in South Carolina who can’t afford an abortion or travel to get one.
“It is the poor women who can least afford another child who are impacted the most strongly by these abortion bans,” Ringer said.
Ringer also said they’ve seen an increased desire for patients to come in earlier, whereas in the past, they’ve had more time to make up their minds.
“The minute that they even think they might be pregnant, they’re coming into our office for appointments,” Ringer said.
Ringer said with an increased demand for appointments, they have had to schedule more appointment days and bring in additional doctors to help patients.
“Unfortunately for legislators who hoped to stop abortions, many of them might have, if allowed more time, been able to work out a way that they felt they could keep their baby,” Ringer said. “But for other women, when they don’t have time to think about it, they are going to move forward with an abortion because they’re just not gonna risk it.”
Ringer encourages women to call Planned Parenthood whenever they have questions. She also said people also need to speak out unless they want to see a permanent abortion ban in the state.
“They need to talk to legislators, or we will be stuck in this dystopia that none of us recognize,” Ringer said. “It’s not a world that we understand.”
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