In the run-up to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision allowing states to ban abortion, South Carolina’s Legislature took the most important step it’s taken in decades, if not forever, toward reducing abortions: It made it easier for women to obtain birth control pills and other hormonal contraceptives.
The new law, sponsored by GOP Sen. Tom Davis, allows women to avoid the time and expense of a doctor visit by authorizing pharmacists to dispense contraceptives without a prescription. We have no idea how many woman will be able to prevent unwanted pregnancies as a result of this new law, but we feel sure it’ll be far more than have done so because of any other legislative action.
And it’s based on the sound idea — with which absolutely no one should disagree — that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.
This week, as the S.C. Senate debates a House-passed bill outlawing nearly all abortions, Sen. Davis is back with a follow-up to his contraceptive-access legislation.
He’s offering amendments designed to provide free and low-cost contraceptives to uninsured girls and women, to require government and private insurance policies to cover contraceptives, to make it clear that Plan B and other emergency contraceptives are legal even if H.5399 becomes law and to replace our state’s abstinence-only approach to sex-education with one that encourages abstinence but also provides age-appropriate contraception instruction for more students.
He also wants to do something that likewise should be a no-brainer for anyone who claims the “pro-life” label or, for that matter, champions “choice” for women: improve the lives of babies who are born to women who don’t want to be mothers or who can’t afford to raise their children, by making adoptions more affordable and improving South Carolina’s child welfare system. Procedurally, that’s tougher to do as part of an abortion bill, but it must become a priority for our state.
As he explained in a guest column in The Post and Courier: “Simply making abortion illegal is not the way to bring about a reduction in the number of abortions — a goal I share. Instead, improve reproduction health education, increase access to contraception, facilitate adoptions, improve foster care — and above all, do not make women feel they cannot be trusted.”
We continue to believe, as a growing number of Republican voters and Republican legislators are saying for the first time publicly, that our Legislature should not pass additional restrictions on abortion now. Instead, lawmakers should hold off until they see what effect our new law banning most abortions after about six weeks has, and see what happens in other states that have banned most abortions from the point of conception.
South Carolina’s so-called fetal-heartbeat law had been put on hold until the high court’s Dobbs v. Jackson decision in June, which overturned the 50-year-old Roe v. Wade decision that declared abortion a constitutional right. Last month, the S.C. Supreme Court put it back on hold while it considers a lawsuit arguing that abortion is a right under our state constitution.
We believe, too, that there are flaws in H.5399 beyond the premise, most strikingly its insufficiently clear language about the circumstances under which doctors can perform an abortion to protect the health of a pregnant woman.
But even if the Senate decides to listen to the majority of South Carolinians and keep abortion legal in the first few weeks of pregnancy, our state still needs to do much more to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. It needs to do much more to improve prenatal care — and in so doing to reduce our disturbingly high infant mortality and maternal mortality rates. It needs to do much more to ensure that children are healthy and safe and well-fed and educated after they’re born.
And if the Senate decides not to listen but instead to follow the House’s lead and outlaw nearly all abortions, it’s even more important to take action to reduce unwanted pregnancies and protect the health and safety of babies who are carried to term.
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This content was originally published here.