17 Democratic States Argue S.C. Abortion Law Will Prompt Women to Seek Procedure Elsewhere

Twenty Democratic attorney generals, 17 of whom are from Democratic states, voiced support for a lawsuit that challenges South Carolina's new abortion law—arguing that it will prompt women to seek the procedure elsewhere.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, on behalf of the prosecutors, wrote in an amicus brief filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that women crossing state lines seeking care would tax resources and harm other states.

"The effects of the law are not confined to limits on particular procedures in a single state: history shows that people will cross state lines to receive proper care," Herring wrote in the brief filed Wednesday.

"As a result, South Carolina's restrictive abortion laws will cause many of its citizens to seek abortion care in Amici States — potentially straining their healthcare systems."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Attorney General Mark Herring
Seventeen attorney generals from Democratic states voiced their support of a lawsuit challenging South Carolina's new abortion law, saying it would prompt women to seek care in other states. Above, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring speaks during a news conference on June 4, 2020 in Richmond, Va. Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Signed into law by Republican Gov. Henry McMaster shortly after its passage earlier this year, the "South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act" requires doctors to perform ultrasounds to check for a heartbeat in the fetus, which can typically be detected about six weeks into pregnancy. If cardiac activity is detected, the abortion can only be performed if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest, or if the mother's life is in danger.

Planned Parenthood attorneys sued immediately, and the entire law has been blocked from going into effect pending the outcome of a challenge to Mississippi's new abortion law before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Earlier this month, the high court allowed a Texas law prohibiting abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity to remain in force. The move — the nation's biggest curb to abortion rights since the court announced in its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision — has been closely watched by a dozen states like South Carolina, which have enacted bans early in pregnancy that remain blocked by the courts.

Opponents have argued many women do not know they are pregnant at six weeks, especially if they are not trying to conceive. And, they argue, with such an early deadline, the law gives women little time to consider whether to have an abortion.

Laws like South Carolina's, Herring wrote, "would create vast 'abortion deserts'" and "harm healthcare overall by creating serious spillover effects that make it more difficult to obtain proper care for other needs, such as miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies."

The states — "many of whom support and subsidize a range of reproductive healthcare services — stand ready and willing to provide such services to those in need," he added.

In addition to the District of Columbia, the states that signed onto the brief are: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

In July, 20 mostly Republican-led states went on record in support of South Carolina's law, arguing in an amicus brief that a federal judge was wrong to pause the entire measure instead of just the provision being challenged. That ruling, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall argued, "treads on South Carolina's sovereign ability to decide for itself the purposes of its legislation" and "aggrandizes the judicial power by treating the court's injunction of the challenged provision as erasing it entirely so the whole Act collapses."

South Carolina Abortion Bill
Twenty Democratic attorneys generals have voiced their support, Thursday, Sept. 7, for a lawsuit challenging South Carolina's new abortion law, arguing that the restrictive measure could harm their states by taxing resources if women cross borders to seek care. In this Feb. 17, 2021 file photo, Rep. Justin Bamberg speaks against an abortion bill at a news conference in the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C. Jeffrey Collins, File/AP Photo