- Associated Press - Sunday, June 7, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Over the past five years, the number of abortions performed in South Carolina has dropped by 11.7 percent, statewide statistics show, and advocates on both sides of the issue offer differing explanations why that has happened.

According to a nationwide study by The Associated Press, South Carolina’s decline mirrors a trend of significant reductions underway in many states, whether conservative or liberal-leaning.

South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control reports there were 6,464 abortions performed in South Carolina in 2010, compared to 5,708 abortions performed in 2014.

The year 2010 was chosen as a base date because many states legislatures began enacting new restrictions on abortion at that time.

Holly Gatling of South Carolina Citizens for Life said she believes the work her organization has done in the past several years to press state lawmakers to approve several measures in 2010 and 2012 are the reason for a reduction.

“Women are making other choices,” Gatling said. “We see this as part of a decline that goes back since 1990.”

Alyssa Miller, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, which runs a clinic in Columbia that provides abortions, said education to prevent teen pregnancies might be making a dent in the numbers.

“We are seeing excellent work from organizations who are helping prevent teen pregnancy and also helping teens and women obtain long-acting reversible contraception,” Miller said. But she also thinks part of the reason for a decrease “are that states like South Carolina are trying to make it more difficult for women to access proper health care.”

Abortions in South Carolina are provided at clinics in Charleston, Greenville and Columbia, the same number of clinics that were open in 2010. Abortions beyond 13 weeks are performed in hospitals.

This year, abortion foes have focused on a bill that bans the procedure past 19 weeks.

Debate over the bill brought the state Senate to a standstill last month, as Republican Sen. Lee Bright - one of the Legislature’s most strident abortion foes - threatened to block its because he opposes exceptions for victims of rape and incest.

The Senate added exceptions for those cases, as well as for severe fetal anomalies, sending the amended bill back to the House. That chamber’s version provides exceptions only to save the mother’s life or prevent severe injuries to her.

A committee of House members and senators was appointed Thursday to try to reach a compromise in a special session later this month.

In 2008, the Legislature passed a law that women seeking an abortion must be given the option of viewing their ultrasound at least one hour before getting the procedure. The language said “if” a woman gets an ultrasound, then the option must be given, but in practical matters, abortion clinics perform ultrasounds to verify the age of a fetus.

In 2010, lawmakers approved a measure that extended a one-hour wait to a 24-hour wait, but no longer tied the clock to an ultrasound at the abortion clinic. Women still must wait an hour at the clinic after an ultrasound, but they can download time-stamped material from the DHEC Web site to meet the 24-hour rule. That means women do not have to make two trips to the clinic to comply over a two-day period.

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Seanna Adcox in Columbia contributed to this report.

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