Update: Gov. Nikki Haley on Wednesday signed into law a bill banning abortion after the 19th week of pregnancy. Our coverage of supporters and opponents of the bill expressing their views before the signing follows.
The decision on whether a bill banning women in South Carolina from having abortions after the 19th week of pregnancy will become law is in the hands of Gov. Nikki Haley. Tuesday, dozens of opponents of the bill rallied at the State House, urging the governor to veto the bill.
Speakers at the rally included legislators from both the House and Senate who fought unsuccessfully to stop the bill from passing and expressed their hope for a veto.
“It’s about getting government out of these very personal, deeply private decisions,” said Rep. Mia McLeod. “In South Carolina in 2016, we are still fighting for women’s reproductive rights and freedom. We are still fighting hypocrisy and double standards, and we’ve got a long way to go.”
Rep. Beth Bernstein agreed. “I trust my physician and it’s a personal decision that should not have any interference,” she said. “We know that this bill would not make these medical decisions private, and as a woman I have a serious, serious problem with that, and I’m glad to see all of these women and men out here today who agree with me.”
The men on hand at the rally included Sen. Brad Hutto, who said the lack of women holding office in South Carolina is a problem. “The problem with the People’s House is there aren’t enough women in the People’s House,” he said. “And those women that are there, many of them have ceded the right to think for themselves and said ‘We’ll let somebody else think for us.’ It’s time that we elect people who recognize that this is a matter that is best left to a woman… her family, her religious or spiritual leader, and her doctor.”
Sen. Marlon Kimpson and Rep. James Smith argued that the bill, if signed into law, will be struck down as unconstitutional by federal courts. “This issue is well settled by Roe v. Wade,” Kimpson said.
Rep. Donna Hicks, who co-sponsored the bill in the House, disagreed. It actually does not violate Roe v. Wade. A woman has up to five months to take care of that situation,” she said. “This is within the parameters of the constitution.” Hicks cited the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of Maher v. Roe, in which the majority held that Roe v. Wade “implies no limitation on a State’s authority to make a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion and to implement that judgment by the allocation of public funds.”
“This is the state asserting its right,” said Hicks, who said she believes life begins at conception. “We’re talking about a five-month-old baby in a woman’s womb,” she added. “Why would we want to cause pain to another human being, even while it’s still in the mother’s womb?”
Hicks said she believes the bill, if signed into law, would affect only about 30-35 women per year in South Carolina, but “I think that it’s going to help save a few children, and that is important, because to me if you save one child that is important.” The bill provides exceptions for threats to the life of the mother or in cases of a non-viable pregnancy, but does not offer exceptions for rape or incest.
Hicks said rape and incest situations are tragic, but argued that they make up less than one percent of pregnancies. “Most abortions are performed for convenience,” she said. “If a woman is considering abortion, then I think as a community, as a society, we have failed that woman…As a community, we need to do more to support women.”
Smith, speaking at the rally, spoke of a similar ban in Texas, and the result, as he described it, of women going to Mexico for abortions. “It is coming here. It is coming to South Carolina,” he said. “Do not be confused. Make no mistake. There is a direct constitutional assault on the rights of women in South Carolina.”
Mandy Medlock, executive director of Justice 360 and an opponent of the bill, said the issue is one of over-intrusive government. “The Supreme Court has said that we have the ability to be unencumbered when making these decisions for ourselves, and this [bill] clearly sets up several boundaries for us,” she said. “I believe in our ability to make our own decisions. The government needs to get out of the way.”
McLeod, from the lectern at the rally, expressed a similar sentiment. “The thing about this 20-week ban is that it won’t pass constitutional muster. It’s 2016, y’all. When are we going to get over this? When are we going to stop doing this? The time is now,” she said. “It’s about equal rights, equal freedom, and it’s about getting government out.”
Pictured: Sen. Marlon Kimpson leading opponents of the bill in chants during Tuesday’s rally (photo by Allen Wallace)