News Abortion

South Carolina Officials Rescind ‘Spousal Consent’ Proposal After Outcry

Teddy Wilson

Vicki Ringer, Planned Parenthood's South Carolina director of public affairs, told the Post and Courier that the proposed regulations were an attempt to “shame” people seeking abortion care.

South Carolina considered regulations recently that would require a married woman to obtain signed consent from her husband before she could receive abortion care.

Backlash from reproductive rights advocates led to the state rescinding the proposal this week. Officials characterized the regulations’ inclusion as an “error.”

Draft regulations from the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) about which records an abortion provider must maintain would have also required people seeking abortion care to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases and infections.

Jennifer Read, a spokesperson for the DHEC told the Post and Courier on Wednesday that the proposal wasn’t meant to be included in the draft regulations.

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“The proposed change regarding including a record of the husband’s consent in the medical file was included in error, as consent is only required during the third trimester by state law,” Read said. “Additionally, the language regarding STD testing was supposed to be carried forward as a continued recommendation, not a requirement.”

South Carolina lawmakers and officials have a history of attacking reproductive rights, as legislators in the state’s GOP-majority legislature have introduced dozens of bills in recent years to restrict abortion access. Lawmakers in May passed an unconstitutional ban on abortion care at 20 weeks’ gestation, and Gov. Nikki Haley (R) signed the bill into law.

Vicki Ringer, Planned Parenthood’s South Carolina director of public affairs, told the Post and Courier that the proposed regulations were an unconstitutional attempt to “shame” people seeking abortion care.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1972 ruled that “spousal consent” requirements are unconstitutional in Planned Parenthood v. Danforth. The Court in 1992 struck down spousal notice requirements as unconstitutional in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

A South Carolina law requires that during the third trimester of pregnancy, an abortion can be performed “with the pregnant woman’s consent, and if married and living with her husband the consent of her husband.” This law is unconstitutional and unenforceable even though it has not be repealed by state lawmakers.

Still, anti-choice lawmakers in several states have proposed so-called spousal consent measures.

Former Alaska Rep. Alan Dick (R-Stony River) said in 2012 that he supported criminalizing people who had an abortion without the knowledge of a male partner, but that he would be comfortable if “the man’s signature was required … in order for a woman to have an abortion.”

Missouri Rep. Keith English (I-Florissant) lamented in 2013 that a bill he introduced that would require forced counseling prior to an abortion had too many “loopholes” and should have included a requirement for “spousal consent.”

DHEC, which has accepted public comments since September 23, will continue to accept public comments on the remaining proposed regulations through Monday.

DHEC will hold a public hearing sometime in December, and then DHEC recommendations will be submitted to the legislature for review. The South Carolina legislature convenes on January 10.

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