SC abortion ban that bars ex­cep­tions for birth de­fects blasted by moms, doc­tors

The Herald (Rock Hill) - - Front Page - BY AVERY G. WILKS aw­[email protected]­tate.com

Lacey Layne was more than 18 weeks preg­nant when an ul­tra­sound pro­vided the worst pos­si­ble news.

It was De­cem­ber 2017, and her un­born son, Evan, had a neu­ral de­fect that was caus­ing his brain to grow out of his skull. Fac­ing South Carolina’s 20week abortion ban, she and her hus­band had to quickly de­cide be­tween car­ry­ing the pregnancy to term — know­ing their son could be still­born or die shortly af­ter birth — or hav­ing an abortion.

“I chose to end the pregnancy to avoid the pos­si­bil­ity of my baby know­ing only a short life out­side my body, filled with pain,” the Fort Mill school coun­selor tes­ti­fied Tues­day at the S.C. State House. “I chose peace for Evan be­cause it was the best de­ci­sion for him, my­self, my hus­band and his big brother. I can’t even imag­ine the emo­tional tur­moil we would have faced had I been forced to carry to term due to re­stric­tive abortion laws.”

Layne was among more than a dozen moth­ers, doc­tors and women’s rights ac­tivists who tes­ti­fied Tues­day against a pro­posed “fe­tal heart­beat” ban that would out­law abor­tions in South Carolina af­ter about six weeks of pregnancy. The pro­posal — un­like the 20-week abortion ban passed in 2016 — in­cludes no ex­cep­tions for fe­tal anom­alies like Layne’s, which of­ten are not de­tected un­til later in the pregnancy.

They were coun­tered in the day­long hear­ing by con­ser­va­tive pas­tors, cri­sis pregnancy cen­ter direc­tors and Repub­li­can law­mak­ers who stressed the im­por­tance of protecting un­born chil­dren who can’t pro­tect them­selves.

The bill, which passed the S.C. House ear­lier this year, now is mak­ing its way through the GOP-con­trolled state Se­nate, even as that cham­ber’s Democrats vow to fil­i­buster as long as nec­es­sary if the pro­posal reaches the Se­nate floor in 2020.

The pro­posed fe­tal heart­beat abortion ban, or H. 3020, would crim­i­nal­ize abortion af­ter a heart­beat has been de­tected in the fe­tus. That usu­ally takes place around the sixth week of pregnancy, some­times be­fore women re­al­ize they are preg­nant.

Sim­i­lar bills have passed in nine states, but they haven’t gone into ef­fect in any of them be­cause of court chal­lenges. Repub­li­cans who filed the bill ac­knowl­edge it openly de­fies the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade de­ci­sion in an at­tempt to over­turn the 1973 rul­ing that af­firmed abortion rights.

‘CHILD SAC­RI­FICE’

The Se­nate hear­ing Tues­day was packed with sup­port­ers and op­po­nents, in­clud­ing many who had signed up to speak. Dozens who couldn’t fit were sent to an over­flow room to watch the hear­ing on a screen.

The hear­ing — in which dozens of anti-abortion and pro­choice speak­ers al­ter­nated at the mi­cro­phone — pit­ted doc­tors against pas­tors, women’s rights ac­tivists against con­ser­va­tive law­mak­ers and women who have had abor­tions against pro­life ac­tivists whose par­ents de­cided not to do so.

Pro-life speak­ers appealed to law­mak­ers’ hu­man­ity, de­scrib­ing abortion as vi­o­lence and mur­der.

Green­wood pas­tor Tony Foster called abortion a “geno­cide” that has dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fected African Amer­i­cans.

Rebecca Kiessling, a Michi­gan-based pro-life ac­tivist in­vited to speak by state Sen. Richard Cash, R-An­der­son, de­scribed abortion as “child sac­ri­fice” and said the bill should be amended to delete a sec­tion that al­lows abor­tions of preg­nan­cies caused by rape or in­cest.

“It’s bar­baric to kill an in­no­cent per­son for some­one else’s crime,” she told the panel.

Alexia New­man, the long­time di­rec­tor of a cri­sis pregnancy cen­ter in Spar­tan­burg, tes­ti­fied that she has “seen how peo­ple re­spond when they hear that heart­beat,” a sound she says con­veys the grav­ity of hu­man life.

State Rep. Ste­wart Jones, R-Green­wood, noted that the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence held that ev­ery per­son is en­ti­tled to “life, lib­erty and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness,” stress­ing that “life” was listed first.

“It’s the most im­por­tant is­sue that we will deal with,” Jones said.

‘NO ROOM FOR LEG­IS­LA­TORS’

But op­po­nents ex­co­ri­ated the bill be­cause — along with out­law­ing a ma­jor­ity of abor­tions per­formed in South Carolina — it lacks ex­cep­tions for birth de­fects and, they said, crim­i­nal­izes doc­tors who per­form abor­tions to save the preg­nant woman’s life.

(The bill al­lows doc­tors to per­form abor­tions to save a woman’s life, but op­po­nents ar­gued the bill’s lan­guage doesn’t clearly de­fine when that is per­mis­si­ble, caus­ing con­fu­sion in emer­gency rooms.)

Su­san Dunn, the le­gal di­rec­tor of the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union of South Carolina, shared that she is a sur­vivor of an ec­topic pregnancy. She said she had no idea she was preg­nant un­til a visit to the emer­gency room.

There was no time for her doc­tors to seek le­gal ad­vice about whether they could be charged with a crime for per­form­ing an abortion, she said.

“This is not aca­demic to me,” she said. “I eas­ily could have died.”

Ob­ste­tri­cians and gy­ne­col­o­gists told sto­ries of pa­tients whose es­ca­lat­ing pregnancy com­pli­ca­tions could have be­come deadly if H. 3020 had been in ef­fect.

“This bill is im­proper in­ter­fer­ence in the doc­tor­pa­tient re­la­tion­ship” by lim­it­ing what a doc­tor can do in med­i­cal emer­gen­cies, tes­ti­fied Amy Crock­ett, vice chair­woman of the S.C. sec­tion of the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Ob­ste­tri­cians and Gy­ne­col­o­gists.

A few women, like Layne, shared their own sto­ries.

“I am grate­ful that abortion was an op­tion so that we could pro­vide the com­pas­sion­ate end of life care that spared my baby, my­self and my fam­ily from fur­ther pain,” Layne said. “No woman should have this per­sonal de­ci­sion made for them by politi­cians.”

Oth­ers, such as Marta Bliese, told law­mak­ers they shouldn’t have to share their per­sonal sto­ries to stop bad leg­is­la­tion.

“I have been the per­son in the exam room,” she said. “There is no room for leg­is­la­tors in that room. Do not tie my hands or my doc­tor’s hands. I am an­gry.”

The Se­nate sub­com­mit­tee did not vote on the leg­is­la­tion Tues­day.

SEAN RAY­FORD on­[email protected]­tate.com

A demon­stra­tor stands as part of a na­tional “Stop The Bans” day of ac­tion at the South Carolina state­house on May 21 in Co­lum­bia. A dozen moth­ers, doc­tors and women’s rights ac­tivists tes­ti­fied Tues­day against a pro­posed “fe­tal heart­beat” ban at the S.C. State House.

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