This South Carolina 6-Week Abortion Ban Does Not Even Allow Exceptions for Mental Health Emergencies

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In a decision that has been in the works since the overturn of Roe v. Wade last June, South Carolina’s state senate has passed an abortion ban, Senate Bill 474, the “Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act,” that stands whenever a fetal heartbeat is audible, which is often at 6 weeks after conception, CNN reported.

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There are not many exceptions to the ban, except for cases of rape and incest, which are considered only up until 12 weeks into the pregnancy – and doctors performing an abortion procedure must report those instances to the local sheriff for legal protection.

Other exceptions include fetal health anomalies or physical health emergencies that might cause danger to the birthing person’s life. Mental health emergencies, such as suicidal ideation as a result of a forced pregnancy that may have been a result of trauma, are not included in the language of exceptions.

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Pregnant people might not feel safe either self-reporting or having their assault or incest reported by doctors, and therefore may choose not to have an abortion. This trauma alone can result in a mental health condition, or exacerbate pre-existing mental health issues.

The bill also uses the language of fetal personhood to mandate biological fathers to pay child support from conception and to separate the fetus from the person carrying it in a medical emergency. That means that doctors are required to expend as much effort saving the life of the fetus as saving the mother if an abortion is medically necessary in an emergency.  According to Abortion Every Day writer Jessica Valenti, “the mandate that doctors ‘separate’ a woman from her pregnancy – rather than give her a standard abortion, means that women will be forced to go into labor or have C-sections, even when doing so will be much more physically and emotionally onerous.”

But, as Valenti points out, the mental health of the person carrying a pregnancy is not part of the equation in South Carolina.

COLUMBIA, UNITED STATES - 2022/08/30: Protesters hold signs in front of the South Carolina Statehouse as lawmakers debate an abortion ban. Pro-woman, Pro-choice and Pro-abortion protesters gathered after the South Carolina House of Representatives advanced a near-total abortion ban with rape and incest exceptions up to 12 weeks. (Photo by Sean Rayford/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Photo: Sean Rayford/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

South Carolina is not the only southern state imposing abortion restrictions recently.

After Roe v. Wade was overturned on June 24, 2022, 13 states, including Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas, almost immediately implemented their trigger bans on abortion, per the Guttmacher Institute. But following that, many states have passed new abortion restrictions, including North Carolina’s 12-week abortion ban, going into effect on July 1, 2023. Florida also passed a 6-week abortion ban last month.

Abortion access in the South is now barely possible, and people in those states will have to rely on accessing birth control and emergency contraception to avoid unplanned pregnancies.

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