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South Carolina Abortion Laws

Few topics are as controversial as abortion. Many people hold strong beliefs on both the pro-life and pro-choice sides of the argument. If you or a sexual partner are considering abortion in South Carolina, it’s important to understand the law.

In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which returned to the states the power to regulate, even prohibit, abortion. In 2021, South Carolina enacted a law that would prohibit most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected (typically at 6 weeks of pregnancy), to be effective if Roe were overruled. Although that law is in effect, it is subject to legal challenges. This area of the law is highly fluid.

The following table outlines the abortion laws you need to know in South Carolina. 

Code Section South Carolina Code Title 44: Health, Chapter 41, Article 6
Statutory Definition of Legal Abortion Abortions are legal until such time as a fetal heartbeat is detected (typically six weeks); thereafter, only in cases of rape, incest, fetal anomaly, or to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to prevent the serious risk of a substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman
Penalty for Unlawful Abortion Felony punishable by 2 years imprisonment, fine of $10,000, or both

Partial-birth abortions (vaginal deliveries with live fetuses) are also illegal. If a fetus is killed in the process, it’s a felony with a penalty of not less than 5 years in prison and not less than a $5,000 fine. However, this doesn’t apply to partial-birth abortions necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life. The father or maternal grandparents of the fetus can sue the doctor in civil court and potentially receive triple the actual damages, punitive damages, court costs, and attorney’s fees. The woman who has the partial-birth abortion can’t be prosecuted for violating this law.


Woman's Right to Know and Consent

The woman must be informed of the probable gestational age of the embryo or fetus at the time the abortion is to be performed. If an ultrasound is performed, an abortion may not be performed sooner than 60 minutes following completion of the ultrasound. The physician who is to perform the abortion must inform the woman before the ultrasound procedure of her right to view the ultrasound image at her request during or after the ultrasound procedure.

Parental notification with judicial bypass procedure: If abortion is denied and the father is identified, he will be ordered to share in the costs of delivery and raising the child. The state may pay for counseling, prenatal care, delivery, and post-natal care.

Either a spouse, parent, or legal guardian will have to consent to abortion for a woman found mentally incompetent.

Counseling and Waiting Period Women are required to receive state-directed counseling with information designed to discourage abortion and then wait 24 hours before the procedure can be performed.
Penalty for Counseling and Waiting Period Violations A doctor who knows or should know the counseling or waiting period requirements haven’t been complied with is guilty of a misdemeanor and can be fined not more than $1,000 for a first or second offense. For a third or subsequent offense, the doctor can be fined not more than $5,000 and be imprisoned not more than three years.

If you need assistance in connection with abortion in South Carolina, you should consult with an experienced South Carolina health care attorney.

Note: As you may know, state laws change regularly. Therefore, you should conduct your own legal research to confirm any state laws you’re reviewing.

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