Abortion Ultrasound Bill Advances In S.C.

Sonogram image of human fetus, photo on black 1/15/2004
AP / file
With calls of emotional blackmail from opponents, a measure requiring women seeking abortions to first review ultrasound images of their fetuses advanced Wednesday in the South Carolina Legislature.

The legislation, supported by Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, easily passed 91-23 after lawmakers defeated amendments exempting rape or incest. The House must approve the bill again in a routine vote before it goes to the Senate, where its sponsor expects it to pass.

Some states make ultrasound images available to women before an abortion, but South Carolina would be alone in requiring women to view the pictures.

Supporters hope women would change their minds after seeing an ultrasound and choose instead to keep the child or offer it for adoption.

"I'm just trying to save lives and protect people from regret and inform women with the most accurate non-judgmental information that can be provided," Rep. Greg Delleney, R-Chester, said.

Delleney is the main sponsor of the amendment. There is already a South Carolina law requiring women to review abortion information and undergo a waiting period. Still, Delleney believes women need more information to make a final decision, reports CBS affiliate WLTX-TV in Columbia, S.C.

"From the calls I've gotten, I think some people wished there was an ultrasound requirement at the time they underwent the abortion procedure," he said.

Critics consider the proposal a tool to intimidate women who already have made an agonizing decision. Proponents hope women will change their minds after seeing an ultrasound and choose instead to keep the child or offer it for adoption.

Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, a Democrat, said the new requirement is emotional blackmail for a woman who has already made an agonizing decision.

"You love them in the womb but once they get here, it's a different story," said Cobb-Hunter, a social worker. "You're sitting here passing judgment? Who gave you the right?"

Rep. Alan Clemmons, choking back tears as he talked about his two adopted children, recalled a prayer given by his 11-year-old daughter.

"She thanked her God, her father in heaven for her birth mother for loving her enough to give her life," said Clemmons, a Republican. "I thank my God for those young mothers who chose to give them life."

The state's three abortion clinics already perform ultrasounds, paid for by the woman seeking the procedure, to determine the fetus' age. The state's informed-consent law, passed in 1994, requires abortion doctors to tell women the likely age of their fetus and give them information about fetal development and alternatives to abortion.

Women must think about the information for at least an hour before terminating their pregnancy.