The arrest last week of a South Carolina woman accused of self-administering an abortion pill to end a pregnancy in 2021 prompted outrage among advocates who decried the criminalization of self-managed abortions, reports USA Today. A 33-year-old woman in Greeneville was taken to the hospital in October 2021 due to labor contractions. Police said she told staff she had taken the pill to terminate the pregnancy. She gave birth to a stillborn fetus of 25 weeks and 4 days. South Carolina law bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and criminalizes abortions without the presence of a physician or a certified hospital. Farah Diaz-Tello of the nonprofit If/When/How Lawyering for Reproductive Justice, said there is "an urgent need to repeal this law. ... People deserve the ability to make decisions about the kind of reproductive health care they want. When the state imposes criminal penalties like this, it strips people of the dignity of making those decisions."
South Carolina is one of two states that criminalize self-managed abortions. The other is Nevada, where Diaz-Tello said the law is being challenged before the state Supreme Court. A few similar state laws have been repealed in the last couple years, including in Oklahoma, Arizona, New York and Delaware. More than 70 anti-abortion groups, including National Right to Life, called on state lawmakers last year to reject legislation that would criminalize those who get abortions. Still, analysis released by If/When/How found that, since 2000, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in 26 states have brought charges against people who self-managed abortions or helped others do so, often using other criminal laws, including homicide laws. Marginalized communities are disproportionately likely to be targeted for criminalization. Cases like the one in South Carolina may have a chilling effect by making people hesitant to access abortion care even when it is legal, Diaz-Tello said. Even if they aren't convicted, people facing criminalization face stigma and harmful treatment after their mugshots and names are released, she said.