March 11, 2014. Charleston. City Paper. By Corey Hutchins. South Carolina lawmakers will rattle the sabers of the culture war on Thursday, taking up four (4) abortion bills.
At 8:30 a.m. in room 105 at the Gressette building at the Statehouse, the Medical Affairs Subcommittee will take up Senate bill 204 that would mandate any physician that performs abortions in the state must be board certified in obstetrics and gynecology, and must have admitting staff privileges at a local certified hospital. Last year, a federal court in Mississippi blocked similar legislation.
At 10 a.m. in room 209 of the same building, the Senate Judiciary Committee will talk about Senate bills S 457 and S 83, two so-called “personhood” bills that would mean life begins at fertilization. Also on the agenda for that meeting is Senate bill 527, which would provide that a “pregnant woman is justified in using physical force or deadly physical force against another person to protect her unborn child if, under the circumstances, she has a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to herself or her unborn child.”
It's called the “Pregnant Women's Protection Act,” and ACLU of South Carolina director Victoria Middleton worries it could hypothetically allow someone to kill an abortion provider. Look further in the bill though, and you'll notice the measure also does something else. Language in it contains a definition of “unborn child” as “the offspring of human beings from conception until birth.” Representatives from the South Carolina Coalition of Healthy Families have argued that if it passed, the law would let legislators say it’s part of the state code of laws that life begins at conception.
Next week, House lawmakers will take up a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. South Carolina's senior U.S. Senator, Lindsey Graham, has introduced similar legislation at the federal level. This year he faces opposition in his Republican primary.
These abortion bills in South Carolina are not unique to this deeply red state where socially conservative legislation tends to gain traction. The national group Americans United for Life has been helping state lawmakers craft anti-abortion measures in Statehouses throughout the country. The AUL, for instance, takes credit for the “Pregnant women's protection act,” and last year the group claimed that only two states had considered it: South Carolina and Arkansas. (It passed the House and Senate in Arkansas.)
Anti-abortion activists are not united in South Carolina, according to Steve Lefemine of Columbia Christians for Life and executive director of Christians for Personhood. “There’s two camps,” he said last year. “There’s the abortion-restriction camp and then there’s those who support personhood for the unborn. There’s some who support one or support the other, and there are other people who support both.”
Palmetto Family Council president Oran Smith has said South Carolina lawmakers tend to pass laws aimed at abortion every other year. This session is the second in a two-year session and ends in January.