The Senate put turned back a bid Tuesday to bring anti-abortion legislation to debate on the Senate floor - an effort by an Upstate Republican to bypass stalled hearings at both the subcommittee and full committee levels.
The action, led by Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, stalled Senate business, delaying final passage of a cigarette tax increase to 50 cents a pack.
Bright, who has emerged as the Senate's most vocal opponent of abortion rights, tried to force a vote on bypassing the committee hearings.
Bright said he took the step because his bill, S450, which seeks to establish fetal personhood, was introduced in February 2009 but had not yet come up for debate.
"Never debating the cause - I don't see how that helps," Bright said.
An irritated Senate president pro-tempore Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, blasted the move, however, which he said not only breaks Senate procedure, but also would wind up costing the state money.
"It is unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution," said McConnell, an attorney. "Let me tell you what he is trying to push on us: This bill would make a doctor guilty of manslaughter or murder if it goes forward."
McConnell, who described himself as "pro-life," scolded Bright for attempting to change U.S. law established by the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case, by passing a conflicting state law.
McConnell also blasted Bright for attempting to force senators either to support that effort or look as if they favor abortions.
"This is one of those gotcha votes," McConnell protested. "You're for abortion or you're against it."
Bright said two other states had approved legislation similar to his personhood bill
But Lexington Sen. Jake Knotts, a fellow Republican, pointed out that legislation had not cleared both chambers in those two states.
Bright later agreed.
His motion to elevate the bill to Senate debate was tabled 24-18.
- Roddie Burris