Editorial Roundup: South Carolina

The Times and Democrat. May 24, 2022.

Editorial: This is a good way to reduce S.C. abortions

For decades, politicians across the political spectrum have declared a desire to decrease the number of abortions in South Carolina. Although abortion opponents have focused mostly on reducing access to the procedure, even they have talked about reducing unwanted pregnancies.

Unfortunately, while the S.C. Legislature has done a lot to reduce access to abortion, it has done precious little to encourage this embraced-by-all idea of reducing demand for abortions. Until now.

The Legislature recently gave final approval to S.628, which allows pharmacists to dispense birth-control pills and other hormonal contraceptives to women without a doctor’s prescription. The bill was the brainchild of Republican Sen. Tom Davis of Beaufort County, an abortion opponent who argued that efforts to curtail abortion also must make it easier and cheaper for women to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

At a committee meeting last month, Democratic Rep. Russell Ott of Calhoun County told his colleagues the idea was “to make sure women have more of an opportunity to access contraceptives than they currently do.”

Critics said it was unwise to give patients access to hormonal treatments without a physician’s OK, but that’s a hard argument to make against a bill that’s supported by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association.

While some on the far right opposed the bill, it nearly died not so much from opposition as indifference. It sat for almost a year in the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee, which has little interest in medical issues. The bill moved quickly once it was reassigned to the medical affairs committee, which reported the bill out just days before a draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion leaked out, indicating the court may overturn the Roe vs. Wade decision that declared abortion a constitutional right.

Against the backdrop of legislators putting procedures in place to return to work this summer to pass tougher restrictions on abortions if the court follows through, the contraceptives bill passed 91-12 in the House and unanimously in the Senate.

The Post and Courier’s Seanna Adcox reports that the bill would make South Carolina the 15th state, along with the District of Columbia, to allow pharmacists to provide birth control to women without prescriptions. Gov. Henry McMaster should sign it.

Whatever the U.S. Supreme Court does, we need our lawmakers thinking less about how they can get the votes to pass a complete ban on abortion and more about how they can reduce the need for anyone to consider abortion in the first place — about what they can do to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, and what they can do to reduce the number of pregnant women who feel like an abortion is their only option.

Sen. Davis’ bill is a good, if long overdue, start.