S.C. lawmakers reach abortion-ultrasound compromise

COLUMBIA — The S.C. House and Senate reached a compromise on the ultrasound bill April 12. South Carolina abortion providers will be required to inform women that they have a right to view the ultrasound of their unborn children one hour before the abortion takes place.

“Ultrasound opens a window to the womb and shows the mother the miracle of life in real time,” Mary Spaulding Balch, director of State Legislation for the National Right to Life Committee, said in a press release from South Carolina Citizens for Life. “The South Carolina legislature should be applauded for protecting the mother’s last-chance opportunity to witness this miracle before she makes the ultimate life and death decision.”

South Carolina will be the 16th state with the ultrasound legislation but is one of two states requiring the one-hour reflection period between the time the ultrasound is performed and the abortion is scheduled. Oklahoma is the other.

South Carolina medical clinic regulations require an ultrasound if the baby’s gestational age is estimated at 14 weeks or older. The ultrasound bill introduced in 2007 would have required the abortion providers to perform an ultrasound prior to any abortion, and to review the image with the woman.  The woman was under no obligation to look at the ultrasound.

Under the compromise language, if an ultrasound is performed, the abortion provider is required to inform the woman that she has a right to view the ultrasound during or after the ultrasound procedure.

If she chooses to view the ultrasound, the woman must then wait one hour before the abortion is performed. The ultrasound remains optional before 14 weeks of pregnancy.

“I hope the ultrasound will persuade women to forego the abortion,” said Rep. Greg Delleney, R-Chester, the bill’s chief sponsor.  Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, chaired the House-Senate Conference Committee that reached the compromise agreement.

“Laws that invite mothers to view the true humanity of their unborn children will tend to set them free to do right by their children,” said Father James L. LeBlanc, director of the Office of Family Life for the Diocese of Charleston.

South Carolina Citizens for Life, the Charleston diocese, the South Carolina Baptist Convention, and Palmetto Family Counsel supported the passage of the ultrasound bill to strengthen the Woman’s Right to Know Act of 1994.

“The effort to get the bill passed has been a grass roots effort,” said Kathy Schmugge, Family Life coordinator for the diocese. “We want women to be informed of what they are doing and not be surprised later.”

The bill now waits for Gov. Mark Sanford’s signature.