South Carolina limits abortion, potentially cutting options for Georgians

Elizabeth Edmonds, leadership director at Georgia Life Alliance, speaks during an anti-abortion rally at the Georgia Capitol in February. (Natrice Miller/



Elizabeth Edmonds, leadership director at Georgia Life Alliance, speaks during an anti-abortion rally at the Georgia Capitol in February. (Natrice Miller/

For nearly a year, three of Georgia’s neighboring states had less restrictive abortion laws.

In July, a federal appeals court allowed Georgia’s law that passed in 2019 to take effect. It bans most abortions once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity, typically about six weeks into a pregnancy and before many know they are pregnant. On Thursday, South Carolina’s governor signed a similar law, although it’s now at least temporarily on hold.

For the past 10 months, Georgians with the money and ability to travel have gone to neighboring states that have allowed abortions later in pregnancy. But within the past six weeks, South Carolina, Florida and North Carolina have enacted laws that are similar to Georgia’s statute. Abortion is banned at all stages of pregnancy in Alabama and Tennessee.

The changes will leave those seeking to get an abortion within a short driving distance of Georgia with few options.

Mike Griffin, a lobbyist with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, said he was thankful neighboring states are taking steps toward a ban on all abortions.

“I think that each state has that right and responsibility to expand protection to the unborn,” he said. “And they’re taking what appears to be an incremental approach to protecting all unborn life as much as possible because the right to life begins at conception. And we need not discriminate against individuals just because they’re in their mother’s womb.”

Representatives with Access Reproductive Care-Southeast, a nonprofit that provides money to those who may need it in order to get an abortion, have said most of the people the organization has helped had been going to North Carolina, where the procedure has been legal up until about 20 weeks of pregnancy. That will likely change after July 1. Others seeking abortions have traveled to Virginia, the next closest state that allows the procedure up until about 27 weeks of pregnancy.

Kwajelyn Jackson, executive director of Feminist Women’s Health Center, said it was “heartbreaking” that patients her clinic may turn away because they are too far along in a pregnancy may no longer have the ability to travel to a state where later abortions are legal.

“Losing access in these three states makes it even harder on them, and if they can’t afford to go to Washington, D.C., or Chicago or New York or Seattle, they may not have any options,” she said. “And they shouldn’t have to — traveling for this kind of care that is safe and normal.

“It should be available where people live. It shouldn’t be that traveling hundreds, if not thousands, of miles is normal for getting a procedure that might take 30 minutes.”

South Carolina’s governor on Thursday signed a law to ban most abortions upon the detection of fetal cardiac activity while allowing the procedure to be performed up until 12 weeks of pregnancy for those who have gotten pregnant after an instance of rape or incest. Later abortions can also be performed if the life of the mother is at risk or if the fetus would not survive after delivery.

However, a judge on Friday put the new law on hold after Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit challenging the measure within an hour of its signing. That means abortions will remain legal in South Carolina up until 22 weeks of pregnancy while the state’s Supreme Court reviews the case.

After a female Democratic lawmaker in North Carolina flipped parties last month and gave Republicans a veto-proof supermajority in both chambers, the GOP-controlled Legislature passed a bill banning abortions at 12 weeks of pregnancy — cutting it back from 20 weeks. The Democratic governor vetoed the bill, but lawmakers voted to override the veto. The law, which has exceptions for rape, incest and fetal anomalies, is scheduled to take effect July 1.

Florida last month also passed a law banning abortion once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity. The law, which has exceptions for instances of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother, will take effect only if the state’s current 15-week ban is upheld in an ongoing legal challenge that is before the Florida Supreme Court.