South Carolina: Pro-Life Bill to Ban Abortions After 20 Weeks Heads to Conference Committee

State   Steven Ertelt   Jun 5, 2015   |   11:17AM    Columbia, SC

Lawmakers in South Carolina are sending a pro-life bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy to a conference committee to salvage the legislation after the state House and Senate passed different versions.

Holly Gatling, the executive director of South Carolina Citizens for Life, explained to LifeNews what happened:

With time running out Thursday for the General Assembly to act on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act by 5 p.m., an agreement was reached to continue working in a conference committee in hopes of passing an acceptable law this year. The General Assembly will meet June 16-18 to deal with matters in conference committees.

A conference committee is composed of three members of the S.C. House and three Senators who meet to try to resolve differences in language in H3114 also known as the fetal pain bill.  The House version of the bill protects unborn children from abortion at 20 weeks, the time frame when unborn children are capable of feeling excruciating pain. The Senate version excludes children diagnosed with disabilities and those conceived in rape and incest, even though those children also can feel pain.

Abortions at this stage typically are performed using a variety of techniques, including a method in which the unborn child’s arms and legs are twisted off by brute manual force, using a long stainless steel clamping tool.

The prolife community strives to pass effective laws that save all the unborn babies we can save under the current Roe environment. The 14 laws passed in South Carolina since 1990 have saved nearly 150,000 babies. Our graph shows the dramatic decline in the number of abortions as we work for life-protecting legislation.

With a conference committee, work on the fetal pain bill can continue immediately. Otherwise work on the bill would be delayed by seven months. We believe it is prudent and in the best interest of unborn children to continue working on the bill now.

Called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H3114) the measure received an 80-27 vote in the House and, late Monday, the state Senate approved the measure. More than 18,000 ‘very late term’ abortions are performed every year on perfectly healthy unborn babies in America.

During House consideration, experts talked about unborn children and the pain they feel in abortions.

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Dr. Stuart Hamilton, M.D., a Columbia University trained pediatrician and long-time supporter of pro-life legislation, described fetal development for members of the committee. He said he agrees with scientific research demonstrating the unborn child can feel pain at 20 weeks after fertilization.

“There is evidence for the probable appreciation of pain by 20 weeks gestation after fertilization,” Dr. Hamilton told the subcommittee. “Anatomically at 20 weeks, the examination of the nervous system displays the appropriate tracks in the central nervous system and the peripheral nerve fibers that are designed to transmit and carry pain impulses.” He went on to explain that at the age of 16 weeks, the baby’s body shows “substantial neurological maturation.” Even at 12 weeks, he said, “The immature constituents of these pathways are clearly visible with magnification.”

A father-son team of physicians also spoke in favor of the bill. Dr. Tom Austin, M.D., a retired neonatologist, and former director of Neonatology at the USC School of Medicine, defined pain as “a noxious insult that one attempts to avoid or repel.” In his practice he treated babies prematurely born at 18 to 22 weeks. “They did show response to stimuli,” he said. “They would respond, move, recoil.”

His son, also Dr. Tom Austin, M.D, is an obstetrician-gynocologist who practices in the Columbia area.  He described his experience with delivering pre-mature infants. “I agree with my father. You can see the baby is trying to live.” He also criticized the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a national organization that supports abortion-on-demand. He described ACOG as being closely tied to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion business. Dr. Austin said he is not affiliated with ACOG and instead has joined the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

South Carolina Citizens for Life strongly supported the legislation to protect unborn babies from abortion and urged lawmakers to stop a last-minute filibuster against the bill that happened over a rape exception the group did not want to see added to the legislation.

South Carolina Citizens for Life asked all 46 Senators to vote to end any filibuster and to pass the bill. Although SCCL does not agree with the amendments exempting children conceived in rape or diagnosed with disabilities, passing the amended bill was the strategy to keep it in play, according the pro-life Senate leader Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley.

“Otherwise it would die. We would not have a bill,” he said.

The bill can still be filibustered on third reading; however it is expected to pass and be returned to the state House.

The national pro-life group that first put the idea of the 20-week abortion ban forward applauded the vote.

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“Pro-abortion groups have gotten away with advocating for even brutal late abortions because their friends in the media won’t call them on even their most extreme views,” said Carol Tobias, President of the National Right to Life Committee. “But we do.”

“National Right to Life created the first ad campaigns against partial-birth abortion, we helped craft the first bans against that method, and we saw the fight through to ban that procedure to final victory in the U.S. Supreme Court,” Tobias said. “Now it is urgent that we educate the public about and ban other, equally cruel forms of the torture and killing of innocent unborn children, like painful late abortions and dismemberment abortions.”

The kinds of late-term abortion bans have strong support across the country.

A national poll by The Polling Company found that, after being informed that there is scientific evidence that unborn children are capable of feeling pain at least by 20 weeks, 64% would support a law banning abortion after 20 weeks, unless the mother’s life was in danger.   Only 30% said they would oppose such a law.

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A November 2014 poll from Quinnipiac found that 60 percent of Americans support legislation limiting abortions after 20 weeks, including 56 percent of Independents and 46 percent of Democrats.

During a Congressional hearing on the federal bill, former abortion practitioner Anthony Levatino told members of the committee the gruesome details of his former abortion practice and how he became pro-life following the tragic automobile accident of his child.

Another bombshell dropped during the hearing came from Dr. Maureen Condic, who is Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine. She testified that the unborn child is capable of reacting to pain as early as 8-10 weeks. This is when most abortions in America take place.

The bill relies on the science of fetal pain to establish a Constitutional reason for Congress to ban abortions late in pregnancy. 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 has provided further research to substantiate their work.

One leading expert in the field of fetal pain, Dr. Kanwaljeet S. Anand at the University of Tennessee, stated in his expert report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice, “It is my opinion that the human fetus possesses the ability to experience pain from 20 weeks of gestation, if not earlier, and the pain perceived by a fetus is possibly more intense than that perceived by term newborns or older children.”

“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.

Dr. Colleen A. Malloy, Assistant Professor, Division of Neonatology at Northwestern University in her testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in May 2012 said, “[w]hen we speak of infants at 22 weeks LMP [Note: this is 20 weeks post fertilization], for example, we no longer have to rely solely on inferences or ultrasound imagery, because such premature patients are kicking, moving, reacting, and developing right before our eyes in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.”

“In today’s medical arena, we resuscitate patients at this age and are able to witness their ex-utero growth and development. Medical advancement and technology have enabled us to improve our ability to care for these infants…In fact, standard of care for neonatal intensive care units requires attention to and treatment of neonatal pain,” Dr. Malloy testified. She continued, “[t]hus, the difference between fetal and neonatal pain is simply the locale in which the pain occurs. The receiver’s experience of the pain is the same. I could never imagine subjecting my tiny patients to horrific procedures such as those that involve limb detachment or cardiac injection.”