The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has delayed recommending changes to its abortion clinic regulations after being bombarded with critical comments on the proposed measures, which were designed to make abortion care less accessible.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the state agency made its decision to hold off “indefinitely” on making recommendations after receiving more than 400 comments on the proposed changes, which were released in September and included several anti-choice and medically unnecessary policies.
The proposed changes included a requirement that an abortion clinic have at least one OB-GYN on staff with admitting privileges at a local hospital, and a requirement that clinic facilities meet hospital-like standards for surgery.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case in June that requirements like these are unconstitutional. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the majority decision that “both the admitting privileges and the surgical-center requirements place a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion” and “constitute an undue burden on abortion access.”
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Agency officials already revised the draft in October because of a public outcry over rules that the agency claimed were errors, including a requirement that married women gain their husband’s consent before receiving abortion care. The agency also removed a proposed requirement to make pregnant people undergo tests for sexually transmitted diseases when seeking abortion care.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that “spousal consent” requirements are unconstitutional.
The health department had scheduled public hearings for next month and planned to send recommendations to the state’s GOP-dominated legislature for review. But state spokesperson Cassie Harris told the Associated Press that the agency needed more time to work through the high volume of comments.
Planned Parenthood South Atlantic used Facebook last month to urge the pro-choice community to send comments to the state’s health department, saying that many of the recommendations were “blatantly unconstitutional,” “medically unnecessary,” and “intended to shame women.”
The regulations are among a string of anti-choice measures taken by South Carolina officials in recent years.