COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina House of Representatives passed a bill March 21 that would require women seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound image of their unborn baby, and, pro-lifers say, could lead many of those same women to continue the pregnancy.
No other state has such a law.
The bill passed the House easily by a bi-partisan vote of 91-23, and now goes to the Senate, where bill supporters are hopeful. Both chambers are controlled by Republicans. Gov. Mark Sanford, also a Republican, has said he supports it.
"It all comes down to a woman's right to know," Oran Smith, executive director of the Palmetto Family Council, which supports the bill, told Baptist Press. "It all comes down to informed choice. As long as Roe is the law of the land we have choice, but if it's going to be choice it needs to be informed choice. Every abortion clinic in the state has this machine, so it's available and it should be utilized in a way that helps make their decision."
Women would be required to sign a form saying they viewed the image, which, based on the baby's gestational age, can show a head, arms and legs. Abortion clinics in the state already have ultrasound machines they use to determine the baby's age before performing an abortion. Most of the machines, Smith said, are not the newer ones with "4-D technology" but older machines with black and white images.
"From what we have seen, [an ultrasound] can have a significant impact — if the woman actually sees the face of her child," Smith said.
Sanford issued a statement two days before the vote in the House urging legislators to support the bill. He said it "has the potential to lessen the number of abortions carried out in South Carolina."
"I believe life is sacred, and in the debate over when life begins I believe that as a society we should always err on the side of life," he said. "That being said, right now the law of the land is that the decision to have an abortion is a legal one, and as such we think it's incredibly important for a woman to have a maximum amount of information possible before making that decision."
Smith said South Carolina's waiting period for an abortion — it's only one hour and he said the shortest in the nation — leads to quick uninformed decisions.
"We have been getting calls from women who say they went to abortion clinics and it was an unnecessarily rushed procedure," he said. "When they went in, they were still undecided and they were very emotional about the decision and they felt that what they got was a real rush to judgment.
"We have the problem of an industry who is seeking to perform as many abortions as they can and their compliance with our law is the bare minimum," Smith added. "Our law requires women to receive information about alternatives and about fetal development, but the women who called our office said that was presented in a very rushed fashion -- that they felt like they weren't given enough time or enough information."
The bill received the support of more than 20 Democrats, the Associated Press reported.
Speaking during debate, Republican state Rep. Alan Clemmons told about a prayer given by his adopted 11-year-old daughter, AP said.
"She thanked her God, her Father in heaven for her birth mother for loving her enough to give her life," Clemmons said, nearly crying. "I thank my God for those young mothers who chose to give them life."
The bill likely will be challenged in court, but Smith believes it will survive.
"The question we have to ask here is, is there any validity to the challenge?" he said. "We have two different groups of attorneys who are looking at it right now, and if there's any change that we need to make to make sure it's as solid as it can be and still have some teeth to it, we would be willing to recommend those changes. But at this point it seems like it's — in the words of Supreme Court — no undue burden on the woman."
The bill is H. 3355.