COLUMBIA — After listening to more than an hour of public testimony, three state senators voted to advance legislation Wednesday that would effectively ban all abortion procedures in South Carolina.
Sens. Mike Gambrell, Scott Talley and Rex Rice — all Upstate Republicans — overruled two of their female colleagues to push the "personhood" bill towards the full Senate Judiciary Committee.
The bill, which would legally define a person as a fertilized human egg, has almost no chance of passing this year, but forwarding it to full committee sets it up to be considered next year. The 2017 legislative year ends May 11, but bills survive for two-year terms.
In an overcrowded committee room, supporters of the bill cited their religious beliefs, the Declaration of Independence and Thomas Jefferson to argue for the bill's passage. Some compared abortions in the United States to the murder of Jewish people during the Holocaust.
Opponents, in turn, argued the bill would outlaw all abortion procedures in South Carolina, including instances when a woman is raped or when a woman's life is threatened by proceeding with a pregnancy.
They also pointed out it could possibly jeopardize access to birth control, a couple's ability to use in vitro fertilization, and a woman's ability to receive certain cancer treatments if it could harm a fertilized egg.
Some opponents said the law would ensure that women in South Carolina are nothing more than a living incubator.
Richard Cash, with Personhood South Carolina and a current candidate in special state Senate election in the Upstate, testified in front of the committee. He pointed out the Legislature reacted to Dylann Roof's racially motivated murder of nine black parishioners in Charleston by taking down the Confederate battle flag, arguing they should do the same for abortion by allowing the "personhood" bill to be debated in the Senate.
Vicki Ringer, the state lobbyist for Planned Parenthood, told the lawmakers they need to consider the legal costs needed to defend this type of legislation against likely court challenges if it passes. She said similar bills in other states have cost millions of dollars to defend and have not been successful.
With Talley, Gambrell and Rice all signing on as three of the bill's sponsors, Ringer said she recognized her testimony Wednesday was "an exercise in futility."