A panel of state senators will consider adding an exception for fetal abnormalities before acting on a proposed ban on S.C. abortions after 19 weeks.
State Sen. Ray Cleary, the Georgetown Republican who is chairman of the Senate panel, asked doctors Wednesday to submit guidelines the senators could consider when drafting that language.
The proposal, sponsored by state Rep. Wendy Nanney, R-Greenville, would ban abortions after 19 weeks of pregnancy unless a doctor said the procedure was necessary to protect the life of the mother. The S.C. House already has approved the ban.
Senators heard from medical and legal experts, as well as mothers, about the proposal – which focuses on whether fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks.
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“We just believe a child would suffer at 20 weeks,” said Trudy Morrow of Moore.
Morrow and her husband Johnny’s daughter, Wendy Duke of Spartanburg, testified at the hearing.
When Duke was 20 weeks pregnant with her daughter Savannah, she and her husband were told the baby’s left leg was a quarter of the size of her right leg, and she had no knee or foot. There also was a significant brain abnormality, Duke said.
Duke said her doctor suggested she terminate the pregnancy as soon as possible. But Duke said she and her husband, ultimately, chose not to have an abortion.
“Indeed, our life has never been the same,” Duke said, adding her daughter Savannah, now 14, is in honors classes, sings in the school chorus and swims on the varsity swim team.
“She battled cancer for the first 16 months of her life, got her first walker at 2 and crutches at 3,” Duke said.
Abortion now is legal in South Carolina through 24 weeks of pregnancy, the period authorized by a U.S. Supreme Court decision. After 24 weeks, abortions are banned unless the mother’s life is in danger.
Reducing the length of time an abortion can be performed in the state is likely to be challenged in the courts.
Dr. Charles Rittenberg, a maternal fetal medical specialist from Charleston, said the decision on whether to abort at 20 weeks should remain with pregnant women. That choice should be up to “her, her family, her doctor and her God.”
Jennifer Lane of Ann Arbor, Mich., was faced with that choice.
When her oldest daughter was 5, Lane said she and her husband planned another pregnancy. After finding out the child would be a boy during an ultrasound while 18 weeks pregnant, Lane said she received a phone call to come back for more tests.
“He had a rare brain malformation where he was missing a very important part of his brain,” Lane said. After talking to a genetic counselor, specialists and leaning on family, Lane said she and her husband decided to end the pregnancy.
“Obviously, it was an awful decision to have to make,” Lane said. “But we made it because it was the safest decision for me and my body, and I had another child I wanted to be healthy for and because I didn’t want to lose the pregnancy later, which was inevitable.”