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S.C. officials suspend work on draft regulations targeting abortion providers

South Carolina public health officials on Tuesday confirmed that they have indefinitely delayed recommending changes to draft regulations targeting abortion clinics in the state, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (Adcox, AP/Sacramento Bee, 11/15).

Background

In September, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) submitted the draft regulations for public comment.

The regulations would have required any woman who is married and living with her husband to obtain her husband's consent to access abortion care. They also would have required providers to administer certain tests to women seeking abortion care, including a Pap test and tests for sexually transmitted infections.

Other proposed changes to the regulations included ending judicial bypass, the process by which a minor seeking abortion care can obtain permission from a judge instead of her parents; a requirement that abortion providers be board certified in OB/GYN; and a requirement that clinics meet the building requirements of ambulatory surgical centers.

However, following the outcry from abortion-rights supporters, DHEC officials in October voted unanimously to remove the consent and testing requirements. Jennifer Read, a spokesperson for DHEC, also said the department would review the section regarding judicial bypass to ensure it complies with state law. Further, Read claimed that language in the recommendations regarding an admitting privileges requirement only clarifies current requirements and does not alter them.

A public comment period on the draft regulations was open through Oct. 24 (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/21).

Changes spur large response

According to the AP/Bee, DHEC received almost 460 comments on the proposed changes. In one of the comments, Planned Parenthood noted that the Supreme Court has declared some of the proposed changes unconstitutional.

After the comment period, officials had planned to hold a hearing in December before sending the recommendations to the state Legislature for review.

Latest developments

DHEC spokesperson Cassie Harris said, "Because of the volume and scope of the comments received during the public commenting period, the agency has decided to take additional time to work through the comments before proceeding further."

The state has not established a new timeline, AP/Bee reports.

In response to the announcement, Vicki Ringer, a regional spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, said, "The scope of comments makes it evident that South Carolinians are not interested in fighting this battle in our state." She added, "We are encouraged by DHEC's decision, and hope that, going forward, the revisions will not be based in politics, but rather reflect the constitutional protections of medical care" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 11/15).