A ban on an abortion procedure under consideration by S.C. lawmakers likely would end up in court, costing the state millions of dollars in legal fees in long-running litigation that it will lose, Senate Democrats warned Thursday.
Despite those warnings, the state Senate’s Medical Affairs Committee voted 9-6 to ban “dismemberment abortion.”
A Republican state senator said she found debate of the bill baffling.
“If this was a bill about puppies or chickens ... we would have people lined so far down that hall to save the dog that we couldn’t get them in the building,” said state Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington. “But we’re talking about feeling sorry for unborn children, and we’re fighting over whether or not we want to euthanize them before we tear them apart.
“I just can’t even understand why we’re having an argument here.”
The proposal, which already has passed the overwhelmingly Republican House, now goes to the full Senate for debate and a vote. That GOP-controlled chamber could send the bill to Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, who opposes abortion.
The proposal is the latest attempt to ban abortion in South Carolina. In 2016, the state banned abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later.
Critics of the ban say the procedure – defined as the “intention of causing the death of an unborn child” by use of extraction through forceps, tongs, clasps and scissors – is the most common and safest way to terminate a high-risk pregnancy in a woman’s second trimester, starting in the fourth month of pregnancy.
The procedure was performed in 22 of 5,736 abortions done in South Carolina in 2016 – less than a half of 1 percent.
Supporters of the ban say the abortion procedure knowingly harms a fetus. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Lin Bennett, R-Charleston, proposes women first undergo another procedure to stop the fetus’ heart.
Eight other states have similar bans: Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia. However, bans in six of those states are tied up in litigation.
Citing those lawsuits, one Democratic state senator Thursday proposed holding the S.C. bill until the cases in those states are decided.
“Litigation is very costly,” said state Sen. Kevin Johnson, D-Clarendon. “Why do we want to waste so much time and so much money when we don’t have any money?”
Another Democrat questioned the penalties for doctors who perform the procedure. They could be charged with a felony, facing a fine of $10,000 or two years in jail, or both.
“That really runs foul of our statutory law,” said state Sen. John Scott, D-Richland.
The state can adopt the bill, said state Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg. But, he added, “We’re going to lose, and we’re going to pay.
“If you want to end up paying $2 million to Planned Parenthood, then pass this bill.”