The South Carolina Section of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, representing over 700 obstetrician-gynecologists across our state, condemns the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The findings in this decision overrule decades of legal precedent that have ensured access to comprehensive family planning, including both contraception and abortion. ACOG South Carolina Section continues to support access to safe and legal pregnancy termination which is essential to reproductive health and supports access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care. We are also joined in our support of access to safe and legal abortion by the SC Chapter of the American College of Surgeons, SC Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the South Carolina Oncology Society.
There is a broad consensus across multiple medical specialties that abortion is a standard of care, evidence-based component of reproductive health care. On June 12, 2022, the American Medical Association unanimously passed resolutions opposing state efforts to criminalize or ban abortions. In-office and medical abortions are highly safe, and considered part of the standard of healthcare by the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the American College of Surgeons, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other organization listed here.
The South Carolina “Heartbeat Protections from Abortion Act” was put into effect this week. This law only allows abortion before 6 weeks, which is before many women even know they are pregnant. The exceptions to the law at later gestational ages in the setting of rape and incest have to be reported to law enforcement, exposing pregnant people to loss of privacy and re-traumatization at a time when they need compassionate care. The documentation required by physicians for exceptions to this law for fetal anomalies or to save the life or health of the mother embed a fear of criminalization into the patient-physicians relationship, potentially delaying care until a pregnancy-related medical condition becomes much more dangerous for vulnerable women.
Pregnancy is not a benign condition. Pregnancy imposes significant physiological changes on a person’s body. These changes can exacerbate underlying or preexisting conditions, and can severely compromise health or even cause death. Determining the appropriate medical intervention depends on a patient’s specific condition. There are situations where pregnancy termination in the form of an abortion is the only medical intervention that can preserve a patient’s health or save their life.
One of the principal reasons South Carolina ACOG opposes the SC Heartbeat Protections from Abortion Act is that it criminalizes the practice of medicine. By putting physicians in fear for providing evidence-based, appropriate, lifesaving care, and denying patients the ability to turn to their trusted physicians for care, this law and the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization threatens the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship, and dismisses bodily autonomy for patients.
Abortion is a safe, evidence-based part of comprehensive healthcare which will remain legal in other states despite this ruling, because it is recognized as part of the standard of care. The 6 week ban in South Carolina means that physicians in our state will potentially face felony charges, jail time, and monetary fines for providing necessary, lifesaving interventions. Physicians have a right of conscience to provide medical care according to the best available evidence, their professional judgment, and their ethical obligation to their patients. Now, for the first time in more than five decades, physicians in South Carolina will no longer be able to exercise the full scope of evidence-based best practices in caring for the women of this State.
The consequences of this decision could be sweeping, heralding in an unprecedented era for health care professionals who must fear criminal, professional, and civil penalties for providing evidence based, appropriate care. The Court’s decision will have devastating ripple effects, and this legislative interference will not stop with abortion—its chilling effect will impede miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy management, threaten infertility treatments, and fuel efforts to target other essential care, including contraception and gender affirming care.& We predict that overall life expectancy for women will go down, and the cost of medical insurance will go up, for all women of reproductive age as basic health care provisions are outlawed and criminalized. South Carolina has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the country, with a shameful racial disparity in which Black women in our state die in childbirth at twice the rate of White women. We cannot allow new restrictive laws that will push these numbers any higher.
As physicians, we are focused on protecting the health and lives of the patients for whom we provide care. ACOG South Carolina Section is committed to mitigating the fallout of this decision; to continuing to serve our patients to the best of our ability and to advocating for our patients, our colleagues, our residents, and our profession in the face of further unfounded and dangerous legislative interference.
Judy Burgis, MD
Immediate Past Chair, South Carolina Section, District IV
Amy Crockett, MD
Chair, South Carolina Section, District IV
Dawn Bingham, MD
Vice Chair and Legislative Chair, South Carolina Section, District IV
Ryan Cuff, MD
Treasurer, South Carolina Section, District IV