A bill banning abortions at 20 weeks is headed to the Senate floor after debate that referenced the Holocaust and murder.
Whether the bill, originally sponsored by Rep. Wendy Nanney of Greenville and passed by the House in March, comes to a vote before the Senate leaves next month remains a question, however.
Sen. Brad Hutto, an Orangeburg Democrat who opposed the bill, placed a minority report on it, meaning it will take a two-thirds vote for the bill to be considered.
The 8-6 vote by members of the Senate Medical Affairs Committee on Thursday came after extensive debate, including a reference to the Holocaust by Sen. Mike Fair, a Greenville Republican, which sparked an outcry from Sen. Joel Lourie, a Columbia Democrat, who is Jewish.
“I think it’s regrettable when we start comparing the issue of abortion to the Holocaust,” Lourie told the committee.
“We can debate science and medicine and personhood all day long. But when 6 million people, men, women and children, are dragged into gas chambers, I don’t think that’s an appropriate comparison.”
Fair didn’t back down from his comments, telling the committee they were taken out of context.
“This Holocaust of our making in our country is 60 million and counting,” he said of the estimated number who have died in abortions.
“Six million, it shouldn’t have been one, for crying out loud. Six million is incredibly horrible, what they endured. But those 60 million taken out of the womb will never have a chance to be dragged into anything. They’re gone.”
The original bill banned abortions older than 19 weeks except to save the life of the mother.
A subcommittee expanded the exceptions to rape, incest and “severe fetal anomaly.”
Though the subcommittee had copied the language used in Texas law to define severe anomaly, Sen. Tom Davis, a Beaufort Republican, proposed a change that would have only allowed abortions if the fetus wasn’t likely to live.
Sen. Clementa Pinckney, a Jasper County Democrat, and Sen. Ray Cleary, a Georgetown Republican, recalled the case of a mother who told of the decision by she and her husband to terminate a pregnancy at 20 weeks after they learned their child would have a mental capacity limited to that of a 2-month-old and require multiple operations.
Sen. Lee Bright, a Spartanburg Republican, told the committee of testimony from another woman who chose to keep her child even after a diagnosis of fetal anomaly.
“The definition of murder is to kill without cause,” he said.
“And these children are going to be killed without cause after 20 weeks and it’s not their fault. I think we as the Senate, as the sword for the power of justice, should protect these because if they’re not safe, our seniors in the nursing home laying in those beds who aren’t so-called productive members of society, aren’t safe either.”
The proposal died on a 7-7 tie vote, as did Davis’ proposal to define an unborn child as it is in a tort section of the law. Opponents said changing the definition could affect fertility treatments and contraception.
In fact, the bill was amended so it wouldn’t impact contraception, IUDs and so-called morning after pills.
Hutto said he believes the bill’s purpose is to present a legal challenge to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, which doesn’t allow states to ban abortions prior to the fetus being able to survive outside the womb, a range that the court said starts at 24-28 weeks.
Cleary said there are mixed opinions on how many such abortions are now performed in the state. Opponents of the bill say such procedures are extremely rare and usually done because of fetal anomalies.
Some other states have enacted such laws. A 20-week ban in Arizona is on hold pending the outcome of a federal appeal.