It wasn’t long ago when the very idea of six-week abortion bans was considered radical. After all, these are policies that prohibit abortions before many women even know they are pregnant.
But after Republican-appointed U.S. Supreme Court justices overturned Roe v. Wade, and GOP policymakers at the state level got to work, six-week bans became quite common. Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed just such a bill in Florida, for example, following on the heels of similar measures in states such as Ohio, Texas, North Dakota, and Georgia.
Yesterday, the list got a little longer. USA Today reported:
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed a newly minted six-week abortion ban Thursday behind closed doors, triggering a new battle for abortion access in the state as the U.S. South faces a wave of severe restrictions to the care. The state’s new ban prohibits abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, which the law says is when a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The ban will go into effect immediately.
Not surprisingly, proponents of reproductive rights quickly filed suit against the new law, though the litigation’s prospects remain uncertain.
But as South Carolinians adjust to their new normal, it’s tempting to think at least some local residents whose reproductive rights have been curtailed will be able to go elsewhere for abortion services.
It’s not nearly that simple. As NBC News recently explained, “As lawmakers in North and South Carolina work to impose new restrictions on abortion, options for women seeking to end a pregnancy in the South are diminishing quickly.”
The regional sweep is now effectively complete: From Texas to Missouri, North Carolina to Florida, Republicans in literally every southeastern state have now imposed abortion bans.
If a woman in Atlanta, for example, wanted to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, she’d have to travel about 500 miles to Virginia. For someone in Miami, the nearest facility is at least 900 miles away.
For many, such a trip would be no small burden. It might involve borrowing a car, taking time off of work, arranging child care, and/or paying for local accommodations. Yes, many will be able to afford plane tickets to more progressive states, but many others will find the costs prohibitive.
Complicating matters further is the challenge of making appointments. NBC News’ report quoted Amy Hagstrom Miller, the founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, which operates clinics in, among other states, Virginia.
“Even before North Carolina’s 12-week ban passed, Miller said her Virginia clinics were seeing patients from across the South,” the report added. “Since January, her call center has received more than 6,000 phone calls from people out of state seeking care in Virginia, she said.”
All of this is poised to get even worse, and there’s no reason to believe conditions will improve anytime soon.