South Carolina House Passes Bill to Ban Abortions After 20 Weeks

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 19, 2014   |   2:40PM   |   Columbia, SC

The South Carolina state House has passed a bill, on an 84-29 vote, that would ban abortions after 20 weeks based on scientific evidence showing unborn children feel pain. Currently the state allows abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy unless the life of the mother is at risk.

The vote included 70 Republicans and 14 Democrats.  All 29 votes against the bill were Democrats.

South Carolina Citizens for Life sent a final letter Tuesday night to all the members of the S.C. House urging them to vote for the fetal pain law that protects unborn children from abortion when they can feel pain. That is documented to be by the 20th week after fertilization, if not sooner. The group describe the bill as “our organization’s top legislative priority for 2014.”

Representative Wendy Nanney, R-Greenville, introduced the bill and explained that it prohibits the abortion of unborn children who have developed the ability to feel pain. Modern scientific research shows the unborn child can feel pain by 20 weeks after fertilization, if not before.  She noted that similar language has passed in 11 other states.

Representative Robert Ridgeway III, one of the 14 Democrats who supported the bill and who is an OBGYN from Clarendon, offered to answer questions about fetal development and noted that “it is important to stand for those who are most vulnerable.”ultrasound4d5

Representative Donna Wood, R-Spartanburg, projected onto a large screen a photograph of an unborn child at 20 weeks and spoke about the fact that surgeons who operate on unborn children anesthetize the unborn patient.  Countering spurious arguments that the fetal pain law is unconstitutional, Representative Wood said unborn babies “are worth fighting for.”

After the vote, Representative Greg Delleney, R-Chester, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and long-time pro-life advocate, described the day’s legislative work as “perfect.” The bill first cleared his committee to reach the floor of the House.

In testimony before the General Laws Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, Margaret Brinley, Ph.D., a neuroscientist, testified that when doing her doctoral research she was required to provide proof that the lab rats would not feel pain.

“We have higher standards of protecting lab rats from pain than we do for unborn children,” said Lisa Van Riper, president of SCCL.

The bill should receive third reading in the House on Thursday, March 20, 2014, and cross over to the S.C. Senate where a tough battle ensues to pass the bill before the end of the 2014 session in June.

A National Right to Life Committee poll found that 64 percent of Americans, and 70 percent of women, support a ban on post-fetal pain abortion. The same poll also found that American women, by an overwhelming majority of 62-27 percent, would be more likely to vote for lawmakers who support this bill.

Sponsoring Rep. Wendy Nanney says she’s not concerned that a federal court has ruled a similar bill in Arizona as unconstitutional. Supporters say a more conservative federal court would handle a lawsuit challenging South Carolina’s proposed law. They hope it eventually ends up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The science behind the concept of fetal pain is fully established and Dr. Steven Zielinski, an internal medicine physician from Oregon, is one of the leading researchers into it. He first published reports in the 1980s to validate research showing evidence for it.

He has testified before Congress that an unborn child could feel pain at “eight-and-a-half weeks and possibly earlier” and that a baby before birth “under the right circumstances, is capable of crying.”

He and his colleagues Dr. Vincent J. Collins and Thomas J. Marzen  were the top researchers to point to fetal pain decades ago. Collins, before his death, was Professor of Anesthesiology at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois and author of Principles of Anesthesiology, one of the leading medical texts on the control of pain.

“The functioning neurological structures necessary to suffer pain are developed early in a child’s development in the womb,” they wrote.

“Functioning neurological structures necessary for pain sensation are in place as early as 8 weeks, but certainly by 13 1/2 weeks of gestation. Sensory nerves, including nociceptors, reach the skin of the fetus before the 9th week of gestation. The first detectable brain activity occurs in the thalamus between the 8th and 10th weeks. The movement of electrical impulses through the neural fibers and spinal column takes place between 8 and 9 weeks gestation. By 13 1/2 weeks, the entire sensory nervous system functions as a whole in all parts of the body,” they continued.



With Zielinski and his colleagues the first to provide the scientific basis for the concept of fetal pain, Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand of the University of Arkansas Medical Center has provided further research to substantiate their work.

“The neural pathways are present for pain to be experienced quite early by unborn babies,” explains Steven Calvin, M.D., perinatologist, chair of the Program in Human Rights Medicine, University of Minnesota, where he teaches obstetrics.