Editor’s note: The following is a personal account of one woman’s reflections about the proposed Fetal Heartbeat bill now being considered by the SC state legislature. HCDP strongly supports a woman’s right to be the only one to make decisions that impact her life or body. Having access to quality medical care is a key component of that right. No one has a right to get involved in that decision, unless the woman requests them to be involved – not the government and not anyone else.
By Wendy Baruch
The first order of business for the SC GOP is something that always brings in dollars and activates the base. The Fetal Heartbeat bill is legislation that would all but make abortions illegal in South Carolina and it has advanced in the state legislature with approval by the Senate Medical Affairs Committee. If passed, the legislation would threaten to virtually obliterate a woman’s right to choose in our state.
The Senate Bill (S.1), labeled with concern regarding the Fetal Heartbeat, would outlaw abortion with circumstances requiring the heartbeat to be heard by the mother, usually four to six weeks after conception. It is a devastating attack on women and puts the government in charge of making decisions that should only be between a woman, her family of choice, and her doctor.
This bill is aimed at determining who controls a woman’s right to choose and it will target doctors who administer health care to pregnant women in search of pregnancy services that may end in abortion care with a $10,000 fine.
Dr. Dawn Bingham, of the American College of Obstetricians, said at the hearing “The care of a patient should be in the hands of the doctors, not the government.”
In my testimony to the Medical Affairs Committee, I shared that I have had an abortion. While I am not proud of this fact, I am not ashamed of it either.
The shame is in this legislation. It shames the doctors who try to help women that get stuck in a pregnancy they cannot afford to carry through for emotional, financial, or familial reasons. A woman doesn’t just decide to abort a child because her health is in jeopardy. Her very life is not always about physical salvation. It is often about education, safety, and prosperity as well.
“Why have you forgotten this as you wrote this bill?” I asked the lawmakers.
“Why are you targeting doctors with rules and regulations pretending that you care about all the unborn children that we lose to safe medical abortions? You don’t care about them. If you did, you would be writing bills that afford poor women a better quality of life so these children can thrive. Why aren’t you getting vaccines out right now? Why aren’t you improving the standards of care for people in this state who cannot reach a hospital because since so many of them have closed?”
“The real argument that inspires this bill is totally political. The very best term of endearment that the GOP makes to attract its base is the concept that babies are killed with abortions. But I tell you that babies aren’t killed, women are killed who cannot get needed abortions.”
Indeed, as I listened to the arguments in committee testimony, pastor after pastor had something to say about why life matters. The fact that religious leaders took up so much of the Medical Affairs Committee’s time caused one member to tell the chair “I have a preacher.” So strange that the life of those of us currently alive and facing the pandemic isn’t as important as the lives of those not even conceived yet.
There is a lot of double speak in this bill. If Roe vs. Wade gets overturned and this bill passes, we will have many more poor moms in SC. If I were a doctor, I would be very concerned about ANY decision to recommend an abortion under the circumstances of this bill, which, of course, is the point of it all. As the testimony was heard there was no fairness. Preacher after preacher were allowed to speak, whereas in other legislative proceedings I have attended, those in favor and those against have equal opportunity. More than 100 people signed up for testimony, which would take days to complete.
My personal summary is the truism that “Once in my life I was involved in an abusive relationship and I had to have an abortion. It was an awful thing to live through, not an easy decision to make. But it was my decision, not yours.”
I hope they got the message, but I doubt that they did. They are all taking up precious time to talk about this as the pandemic rages, as people die, and as South Carolina ranks 49th in the supply of vaccines across the nation. These facts make it clear that the agenda is garnering support from the base at a time when the Republican Party is in shambles for embracing a Dictator and a Traitor.