COLUMBIA — For years, staff and volunteers representing two groups on opposite ends of the abortion debate have stood outside the Columbia Planned Parenthood Clinic vying for the attention of patients.
The days were much the same outside an ordinary brick building in a quiet business park off Forest Drive. Pro-life supporters are trying to convince patients of their options other than abortion, and Planned Parenthood supporters are helping women get into the clinic.
On June 24, the dynamic changed.
The United States Supreme Court issued an opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade, a decades-old ruling that made abortions legal nationwide.
Abortions remain legal in South Carolina with restrictions. However, the state legislature plans to return for a special session in which it will consider a total ban.
“This is a moment we’ve been waiting for,” said Mark Baumgartner, executive director of pro-life group A Moment of Hope, as he stood with members outside the Columbia clinic on June 24. “It is enormous.”
In the meantime, the Columbia clinic will continue normal operations, which include other women’s health offerings in addition to abortions, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic spokeswoman Vicki Ringer said.
But clients were turned away on June 24 so the organization could “digest the Supreme Court’s decision,” Ringer said. She didn’t know when the clinic would start seeing patients again.
The Columbia Clinic is one of three clinics in the state that perform abortions. The others are in Charleston and Greenville.
The opinion came as no surprise, Ringer said, as Politico released a leaked draft ruling in May.
“We didn’t expect it to be any different,” she said.
Baumgartner said “there were shouts of joy” in his house when the court opinion was announced.
Members of his organization, wearing bright green safety vests with a sign that read ‘Hope’, stood outside the Planned Parenthood clinic near downtown and waved to cars to hand out bags containing information packets .
A Moment of Hope volunteers will continue to show up until the Columbia site stops performing abortions for good, program manager Valerie Berry said.
“I think for women who are in a difficult situation and who are struggling or confused, they may feel like it’s a disappointment, but we’ve seen time and time again that abortion doesn’t bring the solution he promises,” Berry said. . “I hope (women) will turn to organizations like ours and others across the state — there are many, so many — that offer practical help.”
Ringer encouraged people to reach out to their lawmakers and ask them to keep abortion legal, especially since SC Attorney General Alan Wilson said he plans to ask the federal courts to lift an injunction blocking a state law that would prevent abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. , which could be as early as six weeks.
“Don’t expect an apocalyptic reaction from lawmakers,” Ringer said. “We have voices and votes, and we can demand better from our legislators.”
Contact Skylar Laird at (843) 830-1526. Follow her on Twitter @sky_latte_.