A South Carolina Senate subcommittee approved a bill Thursday aimed at closing abortion clinics, while a different subcommittee took no votes but heard from the public on other bills aimed at outlawing abortions.
The bill that passed would require doctors performing abortions to be board certified in obstetrics and gynecology. It would also require any abortion not performed in a hospital to be done by the pregnant woman's attending physician, and the doctor must have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Critics say those limits would effectively shut down abortion clinics in the state.
Having passed in subcommittee, that bill now goes to a full Senate committee.
Other abortion-related bills got a public hearing in another Senate subcommittee Thursday morning.
One bill, called the "Pregnant Women's Protection Act," says, "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."
At the public hearing, Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU in South Carolina, told senators the bill is unnecessary. "A pregnant woman who acts in self-defense out of fear for her pregnancy would also be acting out of fear for her own safety. There is no need to add an additional redundant statute when the laws of the state already address the circumstances in which a person may act in their own defense."
But Chandra Cleveland-Jennings, a former law enforcement officer, told senators, "I have three statements from young ladies, who I helped in the past about domestic violence and them having to fight during their pregnancy, and all three of these young ladies that I have a statement from, that I can leave with you, was arrested because they tried to protect themselves during the pregnancy."
Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, is the sponsor of the bill. She says, "A lot of those things do fall under the ‘Stand Your Ground' law and those type things. But I think pregnant women, being the most vulnerable, do deserve special consideration when it comes to protecting themselves and their unborn child."
Critics also say the bill would ban abortions and even birth control pills because one section of the bill says, "'Unborn child' means the offspring of human beings from conception until birth."
Melissa Reed, vice president for Planned Parenthood in South Carolina, told senators, "If enacted, this so-called 'personhood' language could interfere with personal, private medical decisions related to decisions about birth control, access to fertility treatments, management of a miscarriage, and access to safe and legal abortion."
But pro-life activists like Rev. Johnny Gardner say that's the point, and support the bill. He told senators, "If you don't protect these innocent children, you are accountable to God and their innocent blood is on your hands. If South Carolina does not protect these children, then innocent blood is on our hands and South Carolina will continue to be under the judgment of God."
The other two bills are virtually identical and say the right to life begins at fertilization, which would outlaw abortions.
Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, the main sponsor, says he thinks the bills would be upheld as constitutional. "In the Roe v. Wade arguments, they said they didn't know when life begins. So if a state puts in statute this is when life begins, then obviously that kicks out the legs from the stool," he said after the public hearing.
The subcommittee did not vote on the bills but chairman Sen. Chip Campsen promised another hearing.
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