Determined to Rise: South Carolina’s Reproductive Health Crisis

“The thing is: it’s not about women and what [they] need—it’s about an agenda” notes College of Charleston Junior and Planned Parenthood Generation Action President and Founder, Makayla Cook, in response to recently proposed South Carolina legislation to further restrict women’s access to safe abortions. Cook is not alone in her perception; the flurry of statewide abortion bans and restrictions which arose in May 2019 have women across the nation scrutinizing decisions grounded in general neglect for female healthcare—and rightfully so. But this battle between women constituents and their unreceptive representatives is nothing unfamiliar. 

An image of female political triumph remains in the forefront of many individuals’ memories during this recent upheaval;  Roe v. Wade’s Plaintiff Norma McCorvey (aka “Jane Roe”) and attorney Gloria Allred standing on the steps of the Federal courthouse immediately after the decision, with arms raised hand-in-hand, revelling in the glory of their 7-2 win. It was at this point, many agree, that women’s reproductive rights in the United States reached their pinnacle. Not long after the decision, states began attaching legal stipulations to what was originally a constitutional protection of a woman’s right to safe abortions. 

South Carolina swiftly followed suit, banning abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy within only a year of the historical precedent case. In the four decades to come, South Carolina legislators pared down the law, becoming increasingly restrictive with each new bill. 

The status quo for women’s reproductive health in South Carolina now—nearly fifty years after the fact of Roe—is a total of 3 state-recognized abortion clinics (in Charleston, Columbia and Greenville) and a firm promise from Governor Henry McMaster to sign a bill restricting abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy, with exceptions only for cases of rape or incest that have been reported to the state. This is only a bill, but it should be acknowledged that South Carolina women are already required to have an ultrasound and stand by for a 24 hour waiting period before they can receive an abortion. Futher, abortions cannot exceed 20 weeks of pregnancy—explicitly defying the Roe v. Wade cutoff set at 24 weeks. 

Forcing women to wait a full day to receive treatment insists that they are unable to make tough decisions on their own terms; diminishing numbers of clinics legally enumerated to provide abortions indicates a lack of concern for women’s accessibility to healthcare; requiring women to report sexual assault cases in order to receive care undermines the trauma associated with such incidents. 

Regardless of individuals’ beliefs on abortion, it should be abundantly clear that these are not just abortion restrictions, they are government efforts to subdue women and their right to bodily autonomy masquerading as abortion restrictions, and regardless of how individuals perceive them, that is what they are. 

Unearthing the lawmakers’ true intent behind their efforts was only the first step, as reversing nearly half a century of abortion restrictriction legislation is no simple feat. Numerous state institutions require reformation in order to rectify healthcare wrongdoings, one of the most consequential being education. Much of the discourse opposing abortion is ill-informed and based on a projection of one’s ideological and religious views onto another, signaling a need for increased public knowledge about what truly takes place during an abortion and why restricting access to them places women in more peril than not. 

Even more dire, the necessity for sex education reform, so as to ensure adolescents receive only true, comprehensive and unbiased lessons about sex and the mechanisms of their reproductive systems remain unequivocal. Cook noted, “So many things could be prevented if sex and your bodies weren’t such mysterious and dangerous things.” And she’s right. South Carolina, among many other states, needs more than an election to reverse decades of anti-abortion legislation—veritably incorporating women’s needs in state politics requires prudent, well-informed and tenacious activists like Cook to continue pushing against state lawmakers and their anti-women agendas. It is crucial to acknowledge that no individual should ever have legal protection to strip another of their bodily autonomy—not even those enacting the laws. 

Charleston Women’s Reproductive Health Resource List

If you’re interested in taking part in activism related to women’s reproductive rights, contact CofC’s Planned Parenthood Generation Action chapter at 

Planned Parenthood Charleston: (843) 628-4380; call to make appointments and have questions answered about services offered

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Katie Hopewell is a Sophomore Political Science and English double major with a concentration in Writing, Rhetoric, and Publication. Katie is from Emerald Isle, North Carolina and spends her spare time playing frisbee for CofC's Women's Ultimate Team.

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