South Carolina’s 2020 abortion report was published in June 2021, and a corrected report with an updated abortion total was released in August 2021. The report reveals that abortions increased from 2019.
Statistics and Changes in South Carolina Abortions, 2019-2020
Abortion Totals and Trends
In 2020, there were 5,468 abortions reported in South Carolina, up seven percent from the previous year (Fig. 1). Chemical abortions jumped by 19 percent from 2019, making up 67 percent of the abortions reported in the state. The Charlotte Lozier Institute estimates that South Carolina’s abortion rate was 5.5 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age, an increase of seven percent from the previous year, but still lower than the national rate (Fig. 2). As of February 2021, 25 states had released 2020 abortion statistics, of which 18 showed that abortions had increased from 2019.
State Report Summary
Abortions Occurring in South Carolina
Over half the abortions reported in South Carolina in 2020 were performed on women in their twenties, with 28 percent on women ages 20 to 24 and 29 percent on women ages 25 to 29. Nineteen percent of the abortions were obtained by women in their early thirties, and 14 percent were on women ages 35 and older. Nine percent of the abortions were performed on girls ages 19 and younger.
Two-thirds of South Carolina abortions (67 percent) were chemical. Nineteen percent were electrical vacuum aspiration procedures, and three percent were performed using manual vacuum aspiration. Nine percent were performed via dilation and curettage. There were 24 dilation and evacuation procedures (0.5 percent) and five induction abortions, of which four used prostaglandins. There was one hysterectomy or hysterotomy abortion.
Forty-five percent of the abortions occurring in South Carolina were performed at six weeks post-fertilization or earlier, and 55 percent were performed between seven and 13 weeks. Less than one percent of South Carolina abortions were reported after 13 weeks post-fertilization. There were 20 abortions (0.4 percent) between 14 and 19 weeks, and five abortions (0.1 percent) between 20 and 23 weeks post-fertilization.
South Carolina limits abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization unless the unborn baby has an abnormality that he or she is unlikely to survive, or if the mother’s life or a major bodily function is at risk. If an abortion after 20 weeks is performed, the doctor must use the type of abortion procedure that would give the unborn baby the best chance of survival, unless doing so would put the mother’s life or major bodily function at increased risk. Unless there is a medical emergency or the unborn baby has an abnormality, post-fertilization age must be determined before every abortion.
Ultrasound was used to determine post-fertilization age in advance of almost all South Carolina abortions (99.9 percent). Ultrasound was not used to determine post-fertilization age in four cases.
There were five abortions performed after 20 weeks post-fertilization. One was performed due to a medical emergency, and four were performed because the unborn babies had been identified as having anomalies. For four of the abortions, the procedure that would give the unborn baby the best chance of survival was used; a different procedure was used for one abortion.
For seven abortions, an intra-fetal injection was used to kill the unborn baby. The report does not indicate whether these seven abortions included any of the five abortions that took place after 20 weeks post-fertilization.
Abortions Performed on South Carolina Residents
Separate from its abortion reports, South Carolina maintains an online database with information on abortions performed on South Carolina residents in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia. Abortions performed on nonresidents, as well as abortions performed on South Carolina residents in other states besides the Carolinas and Georgia, are not included. The database tends to run a year behind the abortion reports.
In 2019, the most recent year included in the database, there were 10,897 abortions reported to have been performed on South Carolina residents. Nine percent of the abortions were on girls under the age of 20 (including three percent on girls under the age of 18). Twenty-seven percent were on women in their early twenties, and 31 percent were on women in their later twenties. Eighteen percent were on women ages 30 to 34 and 13 percent on women ages 35 to 44. There were nine abortions performed on women ages 45 and older. Age was not reported for not quite two percent of the abortions.
Over half the abortions (54 percent) were performed on black women, even though black women make up just 31 percent of all South Carolina women ages 15 to 44. Thirty-eight percent were obtained by white women, and five percent were performed on women of other races. Race was not reported for three percent of South Carolina resident abortions.
Seven percent of the abortions were on women with less than a high school education. A third were performed on women who reported high school as their highest level of education, and 56 percent were on women who had more than a high school education. Eleven percent of the abortions were on married women, while 78 percent were on unmarried women and another 11 percent on women of unknown marital status.
South Carolina Abortion Facilities
South Carolina’s abortion report does not include information on the facilities where abortions were performed, but this information was provided to CLI upon request. Six South Carolina facilities reported abortions in 2020, with the majority (99 percent) performed by the state’s three abortion centers. Planned Parenthood accounted for 58 percent of the total, with 31 percent of South Carolina abortions performed by Planned Parenthood’s Columbia center and 27 percent performed by the Charleston center. Forty-two percent of the abortions were reported by Greenville Women’s Clinic. Three hospitals also reported abortions: The Medical University of South Carolina Medical Center reported 30 abortions, while Self Regional Healthcare and Prisma Health Greenville Memorial Hospital reported fewer than five each.
In 2016, CLI reviewed abortion reporting across the 50 states, New York City, and the District of Columbia, and South Carolina was ranked at 28th best. To improve its reporting, South Carolina could report the race, level of education, and marital status of all women getting abortions in the state, not just residents. Similarly, South Carolina could report the states in which South Carolina residents obtained abortions and report how many occurred in-state. South Carolina could also collect and report information on complications resulting from abortion, especially given the rise in chemical abortions.
- Abortion totals prior to 2017 are from the CDC. South Carolina did not report its chemical abortion total to the CDC in 2005.
- Rates were calculated by CLI 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. Population estimates were obtained from the CDC WONDER database.
Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.