COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD)- New data from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) demonstrates how recently passed abortion restrictions will impact women in the state.

The data, released Thursday, comes just three days after the Fetal Heartbeat Act took effect in South Carolina. The law, signed in 2021, bans most abortions after six weeks but includes exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother.

DHEC reported there were 6,279 abortions in the state in 2021, an approximately 15 percent increase from the previous year.

Of those, 3,007 procedures took place around six weeks or less of pregnancy, while about 51 percent–3,223 procedures–took place between seven and 13 weeks.

Planned Parenthood officials say most women seen in their clinics do not know they are pregnant until around six weeks.

“For most of us, the way we know we’re pregnant is we miss our period and for some people, that’s our only symptom,” Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood of South Carolina Vicki Ringer said.

The data also gives insight into the age of women in South Carolina seeking abortions. Ringer said while most people assume teenagers account for the majority, the most common age group is women in their mid-twenties.

“Our average patient is 24 years old,” Ringer said. “I think most people falsely assume it’s a teenager who’s been reckless — that’s not the case. She already has one child — 60% of our patients do, she’s in a committed monogamous relationship, and she considers herself a person of faith.”

That figure is supported by the latest DHEC data which found that women between the ages of 20 and 29 accounted for more than 50 percent of abortions in the state last year. Girls between the ages of 15 and 19 accounted for less than 10 percent.

Ringer also contends that women in rural areas of the state will likely be the group most impacted by South Carolina’s new law as many lack access to reproductive care entirely. A 2019 report from the South Carolina Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare found that ten counties had no obstetrics (OBGYN) provider.

“We have rural areas of this state with no doctors or the closest doctor is thirty minutes away, “she said. “so them getting adequate reproductive healthcare now is limited,” she said.

According to a 2017 Guttmacher Institute report, 71 percent of women in South Carolina lived in an area with no abortion provider. Should the state enact even tighter restrictions, such as a total abortion ban, South Carolina women would need to travel an average of 176 miles roundtrip to find the nearest abortion clinic.

“Traveling out of state, especially when you are working at a minimum wage job, don’t have insurance, you already have a child at home and no childcare, probably no car or ability to pass for gas to get to another state,” Ringer continued. “Those are the people that will be most impacted and those are the people already most neglected and forgotten in this state.”

Ringer said in the wake of the Fetal Heartbeat Act’s passage on Monday, Planned Parenthood clinics in Charleston and Columbia have had to turn patients away.

“There have been patients who have had appointments who we have not been able to help, that we have had to turn away, and in those situations, because you could hear fetal tones by use of an ultrasound,” she said.