South Carolina woman arrested for illegal self-managed abortion at 25 weeks

A South Carolina woman has been arrested for allegedly self-administering abortion drugs in October 2021 for the purpose of causing an abortion when she was 25 weeks pregnant.

According to the Independent, an incident report revealed that the woman was taken to St. Francis Hospital in Greenville while experiencing contractions. She told hospital staff that she had taken a pill to end the pregnancy. The baby girl was stillborn at 25 weeks and four days, one week and three days shy of her third trimester. Babies born as young as 21 weeks may survive when given proper medical assistance.

According to a local news report, the current limit for legal abortion in South Carolina is 20 weeks, and the hospital contacted the police because state law also prohibits self-abortions.

An investigation into the child’s death concluded in September 2022, and the woman was arrested in February. “It was determined that the accused obtained and self-medicated. Consumed the abortion pills illegally,” the incident report said.

The 33-year-old woman was arrested and released from jail after posting a $2,500 bond.

In October of 2021, abortion was legal in South Carolina through all trimesters of pregnancy, with restrictions in the third trimester. The South Carolina legislature codified Roe v. Wade into state law back in 1974. And though South Carolina enacted a law in early 2021 to protect preborn children from abortion from the moment a heartbeat is detectable (at about six weeks though the heart begins to beat around 21 days post-fertilization), that law has been blocked since August. However, state law does not allow an abortion to be self-administered.

The South Carolina Code of Laws states, “Abortion shall be a criminal act except when performed under the following circumstances:

(a) During the first trimester of pregnancy the abortion is performed with the pregnant woman’s consent by her attending physician pursuant to his professional medical judgment.

(b) During the second trimester of pregnancy the abortion is performed with the pregnant woman’s consent by her attending physician in a hospital or clinic certified by the Department.”

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In the third trimester, an abortion can be carried out if the woman’s health is deemed to be at risk, though directly and intentionally killing the child is not necessary in order to end a pregnancy. Preterm delivery and emergency C-sections are not illegal in any state.

The woman is facing charges of abortion/performing or soliciting abortion. South Carolina is one of three states that criminalizes self-managed abortions, according to WRBL.

Greenville attorney John Reckenbeil told the news station, “The hospital did nothing wrong. The hospital was in a situation where they have an affirmative duty to report.”

He also said the state’s case will hinge on two things: whether or not the pregnancy was ‘viable’ and whether or not the Constitution protects this woman’s right to make the choice to end her pregnancy.

The reason why the woman self-administered the abortion and why she did it so late in pregnancy has not been given. Despite the misconception that later abortions occur due to the health of the mother, most of these abortions are elective.

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