Politics & Government

Women worry what SC abortion bills would mean for them

SC mother shares her struggle deciding whether to have an abortion

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To hear what opponents of abortion have to say about South Carolina's abortion bills, read this.

Marta Bliese found out she was pregnant four days before she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

At what should have been one of the happiest times of her life, Bliese and her husband faced the choice of ending a pregnancy she wanted or a potentially dangerous nine-month period for both herself and her unborn child.

“The smart thing would have been to immediately abort the pregnancy,” Bliese said. “Nine months is a long time to delay treatment.”

Bliese chose to undergo the minimum level of treatment – without radiation or even some painkillers – while protecting her now 18-year-old daughter.

But if legislation now moving through the S.C. Legislature had been in effect then, Bliese said she probably would have had an abortion.

“I knew I could try to manage my cancer, and then if something went wrong, we had other options,” she said. “These bills would force you into an early abortion.”

Bliese was one of about two dozen women who gathered Tuesday at the State House at a rally organized by Planned Parenthood to oppose two proposals to limit abortion in South Carolina.

In February, a state Senate panel approved a proposal to ban so-called “dismemberment” abortions.

Opponents say the bill would ban the safest method of second-trimester abortions – a ban that could have led Bliese to make a different choice 18 years ago.

Supporters of the ban believe the procedure – medically called “dilation and evacuation” – inflicts pain on a developing fetus. They want to require doctors to stop the fetus’s heart before an abortion.

A South Carolina senate panel heard about 40 minutes of gut-wrenching testimony as they considered a bill that ban's 'dismemberment' abortions.

Separately, the state Senate is slated to take up a “personhood” bill saying that life begins at the moment of conception – effectively banning abortion. That bill already has passed the House despite fears it also could affect fertility treatments and birth control.

“Anything that prevents the egg from implanting in the womb is murder,” Corrine Reed said of the bill. “This would prevent medical intervention and some birth control.”

Reed, who has taken several forms of birth control to prevent painful ovarian bleeding, worries the bill effectively would ban her medication.

“Frankly, I should not have to publicly disclose my medical history in the middle of the State House to justify my access to birth control,” Reed said after speaking to reporters in the State House lobby.

Deborah Billings, who has worked in public health in Latin American countries with similar abortion restrictions, says the “personhood” proposal would endanger women’s health in instances of ectopic pregnancies, when an egg implants in the fallopian tube rather than the uterus.

“Women come into the hospital in pain, and the doctors just stand there and say, ‘I can’t do anything for you,’ ” Billings said. “They have to wait for the fallopian tube to rupture so they can say the pregnancy has naturally ended. But, then, you’re bleeding to death.”

“This would affect African-American women, poor women, Hispanic women,” Billings said. “Wealthy white women can go to another state or tap into a private physician for help. Others don’t have that option.”

If they become law, the proposals are likely to face legal challenges on the grounds that they violate the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

Supporters of the proposals say they would welcome a court challenge, hoping it would lead the high court to reverse that 1973 decision.

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