COLUMBIA - A bill that would ban and criminalize abortion at 20 weeks moved to the Senate floor Thursday, as lawmakers grappled over the abortion question and one compared it to the Holocaust.
Supporters of the bill say the 20-week mark is important because it's the age when a fetus can feel pain, though this notion is disputed in the medical community. Such late-term abortions are rare and represent less than 1 percent of all abortions in South Carolina, advocates say. South Carolina's abortion clinics do not perform them, and a Greenville doctor recently testified that he sends those seeking such late-term abortions to clinics in Georgia and North Carolina.
Opponents fear the measure would interfere with a doctor and mother's decision to make a difficult medical choice. Senators added language to the House bill, H. 4223, to ensure that cases of rape, incest or severe problems with the fetus were included as exceptions.
The bill passed the Senate Medical Affairs Community 8-6. Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, an opponent of the bill, placed a procedural hurdle on the proposal that will make it more difficult for the bill to get a vote on the Senate floor.
Senators differed on whether the measure was the right move. Hutto said that it is unconstitutional and will invite a legal challenge - something anti-abortion advocates say they hope is the case, to chip away at the right to abortion after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade.
Sen. Michael Fair, R-Greenville, compared the right to abortion to the Holocaust.
"Hitler figured out that because you're a Jew you had no right to live," Fair said. "In essence, some people are more qualified to live than others. And that's what we're saying here" by allowing abortion.
Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Columbia, took exception. "When 6 million people are dragged into gas chambers I don't think that's an appropriate comparison. I'm always disturbed greatly when I hear that comparison."
Fair responded: "This Holocaust of our making is 60 million and counting (nationwide). Those 60 million were taken out of the womb, killed, will never have the chance to be dragged into anything," he said.