Explore Harvard's Nieman network Nieman Fellowships Nieman Lab Nieman Reports Nieman Storyboard

Editors, take a look at the new South Carolina abortion legislation

ASK THIS | April 01, 2007

Proposed legislation, likely to be enacted, would require a woman seeking an abortion to first view an ultrasound of the fetus. In practical terms, how would that work? Columnist Mary Curtis is critical of the bill and has some questions about it.

By Mary Curtis

Q. Suppose the legislation succeeds in deterring abortions. What kind of counseling and other help, if any, will South Carolina offer the mothers  and their children?

Q. What are the chances that legislation like this will be proposed where you live?

Q. What’s the status of abortion in your area – are there more abortions being done now than in past years, fewer, or is the number about the same? Isn’t it time you did an update?

So what exactly is this new South Carolina bill and how is it going to work?

It’s the one – passed by the S.C. House – that would require women seeking an abortion to first view an ultrasound of the fetus.

There are a few questions on how such a bill would be implemented. If the woman looks away, will someone turn her head around? If she closes her eyes, will her eyelids – “Clockwork Orange”-style – be clamped open?

If the woman changes her mind and decides to have the baby, will there be counselors to offer support – social, economic, you name it – to deal with the issues that led her to seek an abortion in the first place? Or, will she be turned out, more confused than ever?

Will the state owe the children medical insurance, day care and good schools with proper sex education?

Will the father be forced to share in this legal treatment, considering his part?

Regardless of whether the bill is bad or good policy, it definitely makes for great politics. It’s a chance for endless speechifying about the sanctity of life, a position few would argue with. In the House debate, there were indeed quotes from Scripture and personal stories, but the practical questions, these little details, weren’t covered.

The House passed the legislation 91-23 and the Senate probably will follow – possibly adding a rape and incest exception – and Gov. Mark Sanford says he supports it. South Carolina would become the first state in the nation with such a restriction. A question for reporters and editors elsewhere is whether similar bills or other abortion measures are in the works. Perhaps this bill in South Carolina can server as a reminder: when was the last time your news organization reported on abortion locally, and wouldn’t it be appropriate to report on it now?

South Carolina already requires doctors to tell women the likely age of their fetus. Women receive information about fetal development and alternatives to abortion, and must have at least an hour to think through all their options.

If the bill becomes law, women who already have to undergo this medical procedure will be compelled to sign a form saying they have looked at the pictures.

I am sympathetic to those with no voice, the unborn. I’m not forgetting any of them – those with birth defects and disabilities, those conceived through rape or incest, those unplanned and unwanted.

I agree with the sentiment, to help a woman or a young girl pause before undergoing a procedure that many – including me – believe ends a life. But in my view this law has the look of punishment. It takes a woman who’s going through an emotional wringer, and pummels her when she’s down. It’s a dose of reality, without any compassion.

There are programs that strive for the same goal with comfort and counsel. One is run by Room at the Inn, a nonprofit group that helps women during pregnancy and after they have their babies. Its message: “We understand that many women may have felt forced to choose abortion … because they lacked the resources and emotional support to continue their pregnancy.” The South Carolina bill doesn’t do anything like that.

Editors, take a look at the new South Carolina abortion legislation
Posted by nimmijones
08/11/2008, 06:40 AM

At its best, politics is how people of differing viewpoints work together to find a way to accomplish something for the public. The process involves listening, negotiating, compromising, sharing, offers and counter-offers. It embraces influences of constituencies, consideration of long-term personal and statewide impacts, and more.

South Carolina Treatment Centers

[url=http://www.treatmentcenters.org/south-carolina]Inspire Internet MarketingSouth Carolina Treatment Centers[/url]

The NiemanWatchdog.org website is no longer being updated. Watchdog stories have a new home in Nieman Reports.