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Providers in the U.S. South Struggle with Abortion Restrictions after South Carolina Governor Enacts New Law.

As South Carolina governor signs new law, abortion restrictions strain providers in U.S. South

As South Carolina governor signs new law, abortion restrictions strain providers in U.S. South

A wave of new abortion restrictions has swept the Southeastern United States, causing frustrations for providers who are already faced with limited access. On Thursday, South Carolina joined the growing list of Southern states with strict abortion laws after Governor Henry McMaster signed a bill banning most abortions at six weeks of pregnancy. The law went into effect immediately and is expected to spark a legal challenge from providers.

Pending bans at various stages of pregnancy in North Carolina and Florida, which had previously offered wider access to the procedure, have further delayed abortions as appointments pile up and doctors work to understand the new limitations. The medical providers have had to adapt to comply with the pending laws, which are exacerbating the significant shortage of abortion providers across the region.

Abortion restrictions significantly limit access in the South, with bans throughout pregnancy in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. In Georgia, it is only legal in the first six weeks of pregnancy. A report released in April by the Society of Family Planning found that there are increasing numbers of abortions in states that are located near areas with the harshest restrictions but where abortion had remained legal. Florida and North Carolina were among the states with the largest increases, and they also happen to have new restrictions that are pending.

Most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy will be banned in North Carolina from July 1, and a six-week ban in Florida will take effect only if the state’s current 15-week ban is upheld by the state Supreme Court. South Carolina was also a key destination for people seeking abortions, as provisional state Health Department data indicated that there were many out-of-state patients after the state’s highest court overturned previous restrictions and left abortion legal through 22 weeks.

The new law signed by South Carolina’s governor will change that status, according to Caitlin Myers, an economics professor at Middlebury College who studies the effects of reproductive policies. Myers said that limited evidence suggests about half of the people who want abortions will not be able to make the six-week threshold. This is likely to end up sending a lot of desperate people seeking abortions even farther distances and result in even greater congestion at the facilities left to receive them.

As many state legislatures convene for their first regular sessions since the US Supreme Court struck down federal abortion protections, numerous Republican officials in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida have pushed Virginia closer to being a regional outlier as a place with relatively permissive access. The rising tide of state-level activity has been welcomed by anti-abortion groups who had long chipped away at access.

FAQs:

Q: Which Southeastern states have implemented strict abortion laws?
A: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia all have strict abortion laws, while Georgia’s law allows only for the first six weeks of pregnancy.

Q: What new abortion laws have been introduced in North Carolina and Florida?
A: Most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy will be banned in North Carolina from July 1, and a six-week ban in Florida will take effect only if the state’s current 15-week ban is upheld by the state Supreme Court.

Q: Has the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on abortion access in the Southeastern United States?
A: The pandemic has had a significant impact on abortion access in the region, leading to longer waiting times, higher costs, and reduced access to care.

Q: How have medical providers responded to the new laws?
A: Medical providers have had to urgently reconfigure their services to meet the new restrictions. This has further exacerbated the limited access that already existed in the region.

Q: What is the impact of the new abortion restrictions?
A: Experts predict that the new abortion restrictions will compound the stressors on a system that was already seeing lengthy waiting periods in some areas and will prevent some patients from receiving abortions.

As South Carolina governor signs new law, abortion restrictions strain providers in U.S. South
As South Carolina governor signs new law, abortion restrictions strain providers in U.S. South

Restrictions on abortions put pressure on providers in the southern United States following signing of new law by South Carolina’s governor

A wave of newly approved abortion restrictions in the Southeastern United States has forced providers to reconfigure their services for a region where access is already severely limited. On Thursday, South Carolina joined the Southern states imposing stiff restrictions on the procedure when the governor signed a bill banning most abortions around six weeks of pregnancy, setting up an anticipated legal challenge from providers. Pending bans at varying stages of pregnancy in North Carolina and Florida are threatening to further delay abortions as appointments pile up and doctors work to understand the new limitations.

“This is a great day for life in South Carolina, but the fight is not over. We stand ready to defend this legislation against any challenges and are confident we will succeed,” Republican South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said in a statement.

Abortion is severely restricted in much of the South, including bans throughout pregnancy in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. In Georgia, it’s allowed only in the first six weeks.

Jenny Black, the president of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said providers have had to quickly determine how to comply with the pending laws amid the “decimation of abortion access across the South.” She expects new restrictions will compound the stressors on a system that was already seeing lengthy waiting periods in North Carolina driven by an influx of patients from Georgia and Tennessee.

A report released in early April by the Society of Family Planning found rising numbers of abortions in states near those with the deepest restrictions but where abortion had remained largely legal. Florida and North Carolina were among the states with the biggest increases — and among those where new restrictions are pending.

South Carolina had also proven to be a key destination for people seeking abortions. Provisional state Health Department data showed larger numbers of out-of-state patients after the state’s highest court overturned previous restrictions and left abortion legal through 22 weeks. The new law signed by the South Carolina governor will change that status, according to Caitlin Myers, an economics professor at Middlebury College. Myers said limited evidence suggests about half of the people who want abortions won’t be able to make the six-week threshold.

“It’s likely to end up sending a lot of desperate people seeking abortions even farther distances and result in even greater congestion at the facilities that are left to receive them,” Myers said.

The tide of state-level activity has been welcomed by anti-abortion groups who had long chipped away at access. The shifting landscape has also heightened uncertainty among providers that has kept them from expanding services, Myers said, and will likely prevent some patients from getting abortions as doctors weigh what is and isn’t permissible.

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