S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, March 25, 2007
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/07.0325.ultra.htm

Gamesmanship permeates abortion debate
By Andy Brack, Publisher

MARCH 25, 2007 -- The continuing, or perhaps continual, debate over abortion is politics at its worst.

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.

But with debates like those surrounding abortion, politics is little better than a game of one-upsmanship.

On one side are people - generally liberals - who have the Chicken Little syndrome. Everywhere they look, the sky is falling and abortion is going to be illegal tomorrow. This is despite the fact that polls show two-thirds of Americans oppose overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legitimized a woman's right to choose to have an abortion. So they're constantly on the defensive and worked up about any challenges to abortion rights.

On the other side are people - generally conservatives - who want to try anything to undercut the Roe decision. So every year in the legislature, they introduce bills that seek to fiddle with or erect barriers to a woman having an abortion.

Such is the case now with the S.C. General Assembly - again. Despite the fact that South Carolina has one of the nation's toughest "informed consent" laws to require counseling of all options about the unborn to pregnant women considering an abortion, bills in the House and Senate seek to erect more barriers.

The silly bill of the year seeks to have a state commission to work on erecting a statue on the Statehouse grounds to honor the memory of unborn children. Another seeks to prevent abortions by requiring doctors to counsel women on whether fetuses can experience pain.


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But another bill that panders to the worst kind of politics has picked up steam, passed the S.C. House on a 91-23 vote and is headed to the Senate. It would require women interested in abortions to view an ultrasound image of the fetus. If the bill passes and is signed by Gov. Mark Sanford, who says he's for it, South Carolina would become the first state in the nation to require ultrasound viewings.

Three points to consider:

  • All of these bills, including the one on ultrasound viewings, are written and fervently backed by men.

  • In South Carolina, doctors who perform abortions already take ultrasound images as common practice. A pregnant woman can choose to view images today if she wants.

  • Requiring viewings of the ultrasounds would be an additional state law - - an extra use of the strong arm of government. Its use doesn't square with the conservative philosophy of limited government. As Sen. Kevin Bryant, the Anderson Republican who is sponsoring the ultrasound bill in the Senate admitted, sometimes people have to pick their battles. In this case, it's between the philosophy of limited government and that of using an activist government to accomplish political goals. Bryant and other conservatives picked the latter.

The ultrasound law being sought by conservatives is interesting because it doesn't interfere directly with a woman's right to choose. "It leaves the choice intact," Bryant said.

But it is a barrier because it's just another thing that a woman has to go through before making her choice.

Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, an Orangeburg Democrat, says the tactic is little more than "emotional blackmail" to make a woman feel guilty about her choice. In other words, it's a clever tactic to ratchet up the political gamesmanship in the never-ending abortion war.

"Our informed consent laws are very strong and very appropriate," Cobb-Hunter said. "This is overkill."

She and others find the conservative concern for unborn children to be somewhat hypocritical because of how the state fails to deal successfully with the poor, hungry and those in need.

"They love a fetus in utero, but once that fetus is born into the world, there seems to be no love for the new child or the mother. All I want them to do is show them some love - not just inside the womb, but outside as well."

The ultrasound notification bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate. But one thing is for sure: as long as the debate over abortion goes on, the political gamesmanship will continue. Aren't there better things to do?

You can reach Andy Brack, publisher of SC Statehouse Report, at brack@statehousereport.com.

Recent commentary

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Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:

3/20: Payday lending is sought-after service

To the editor:

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-- Ken Compton, chief executive officer, Advance America, Spartanburg, S.C.

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