Abortion Reporting: South Carolina (2019)

Tessa Longbons  

South Carolina 2019 abortion statistics compiled by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control show that abortions increased from the previous year but remain low compared to earlier years.


Statistics and Changes in South Carolina Abortions, 2018-2019


Abortion Totals and Trends


There were 5,101 abortions reported in South Carolina in 2019, up 10 percent from 2018 but still lower than the 5,112 abortions reported in 2017 (Fig. 1). Chemical abortions jumped by over 20 percent between 2018 and 2019; chemical abortions made up 61 percent of all South Carolina abortions in 2019. The Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) estimates that South Carolina’s abortion rate was 5.2 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 in 2019, far lower than the national rate but up nine percent from the previous year (Fig. 2).


State Report Summary


In 2019, 10 percent of the abortions occurring in South Carolina were performed on girls under the age of 20. Twenty-eight percent were on women ages 20 to 24, and 29 percent on women ages 25 to 29. Nineteen percent of the abortions were obtained by women ages 30 to 34, and 14 percent were performed on women age 35 or older.


The vast majority of the abortions reported in South Carolina (99 percent) occurred at 13 weeks post-fertilization or earlier. Forty-six percent were performed at six weeks or earlier, and 54 percent occurred from seven to 13 weeks. There were 25 abortions from 14 to 19 weeks post-fertilization and five abortions reported from 20 to 23 weeks. No abortions were reported after 23 weeks. South Carolina limits abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization unless the unborn baby has an anomaly or the mother’s life or a major bodily function is at risk, and any abortions after 20 weeks must be performed using the method most likely to preserve the unborn baby’s life unless this method would pose a greater risk to the mother. In 2019, three of the abortions reported between 20 and 23 weeks post-fertilization were performed because the unborn babies had unspecified anomalies, and two were performed due to medical emergencies. For two of the abortions, the methods used were the ones most likely to allow the unborn babies to survive, although the report does not indicate whether the babies survived.


Sixty-one percent of the abortions occurring in South Carolina were chemical abortions. Twenty-seven percent were vacuum aspiration procedures, with 23 percent performed with electrical vacuum aspiration and four percent with manual vacuum aspiration. Twelve percent were dilation and curettage procedures. There were 22 dilation and evacuation abortions and four abortions that used a combination of dilation and evacuation and induction. There were five abortions induced using prostaglandins and one hysterectomy or hysterotomy abortion. Before two of the abortions, an intra-fetal injection was used to kill the unborn baby.


South Carolina’s abortion report does not include the number of abortions performed at each facility in the state, but the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control provided this information to CLI upon request. In 2019, Planned Parenthood’s abortion market share increased to over 57 percent of all abortions occurring in the state. Twenty-nine percent of the abortions were performed at Planned Parenthood’s Charleston center and another 29 percent by Planned Parenthood’s Columbia center. Forty-two percent of the abortions were performed by Greenville Women’s Clinic. Although most abortions were performed at abortion centers, a few occurred in hospitals: there were 41 abortions reported by MUSC Medical Center, six by GHS Greenville Memorial Hospital, and fewer than five by Spartanburg Regional Medical Center.


2018 Resident Data


According to the last national report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), just 50 percent of the abortions performed on South Carolina residents occur in-state. In 2016, the last year of data reported by CDC, 33 percent of the abortions reported to have been performed on South Carolina residents occurred in North Carolina, and 17 percent occurred in Georgia. In its online vital statistics database, South Carolina separately reports abortions performed on South Carolina women in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia. The latest data available via South Carolina’s vital statistics database is from 2018 as it tends to lag several months behind its regular abortion reports.


In 2018, 51 percent of the abortions performed on South Carolina residents were on African American women. Thirty-eight percent were on white women, and five percent were on women of other races. Six percent were on women of unknown race. CLI estimates that the black abortion rate was nearly three times the white abortion rate; however, because not all states report abortions on South Carolina residents back to South Carolina, the actual percentages of South Carolina residents of each race undergoing abortions may have been different. Seventy-nine percent of the women were unmarried, 12 percent were married, and nine percent did not have their marital status reported.


Twenty-eight percent of the abortions were on women ages 20 to 24, and 31 percent were on women ages 25 to 29. Eighteen percent were on women in their early thirties, and 13 percent were on women ages 35 and older. Nine percent of the abortions were performed on girls between the ages of 10 and 19. Eight percent of the women who obtained abortions had less than a high school education, 31 percent of the women had finished high school, and 54 percent had more than a high school education. Education was not reported for seven percent of the North Carolina residents undergoing abortions in 2018.


State Ranking


South Carolina’s reporting was ranked at 28th best in CLI’s 2016 survey of abortion reporting across the 50 states, New York City, and the District of Columbia. Since then, South Carolina has strengthened its reporting by clarifying what must be reported and creating mechanisms for enforcement. South Carolina could further improve its reporting by including more demographic information for all abortions occurring in the state, rather than just those performed on resident women, such as the race of women undergoing abortions and their marital status. South Carolina could also incorporate the number of abortions reported by each facility into its report. Additionally, South Carolina could collect and report information on complications caused by abortion, including both complications treated at the abortion facility and those identified and treated elsewhere.


  1. Rates were calculated by CLI using population estimates from the United States Census Bureau. The rates were calculated using the following formula: (total number of abortions performed in South Carolina ÷ number of resident women ages 15-44) x 1,000. Rates may differ slightly from previous CLI articles due to revised population estimates.

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