Activists on both sides of the abortion debate react as legislatures consider total ban with exceptions

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Published: Aug. 30, 2022 at 8:27 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As the South Carolina House of Representatives debated a bill Tuesday that would ban nearly all abortions, with limited exceptions, protesters on both sides of the issue packed the State House to have their voices heard.

On Tuesday evening, the House approved a ban on abortions with exceptions to save the life and health of the mother at any point and for pregnancies caused by rape and incest before 12 weeks.

There will be a third reading of the bill Wednesday before it heads to the Senate for consideration.

Some anti-abortion activists expressed confidence that the state will pass some law that further restricts abortion access.

Mark Baumgartner, founder and Executive Director of the local anti-abortion organization A Moment of Hope, told lawmakers to “be courageous.”

He said he would like to see South Carolina join several other states by passing a total ban on abortions.

“We’ve been praying for this time for years, for a whole decade and now it’s upon us,” he said.

The CEO of the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network, Ann Warner, believes public sentiment is changing minds on this issue.

“We’re seeing such a surge of people who have maybe been concerned and watching from the wings for a long, but now that they’ve seen what the Supreme Court has done and what the legislature seems poised to want to do, they are showing up like they never have been before,” she said. “We know that this is just the beginning.”

A new poll released this week from the Trafalgar Group shows that 59 percent of likely general election voters in South Carolina surveyed believe abortion should be legal in some cases.

This includes 20 percent who believe abortion should be legal in the first trimester until a fetal heartbeat is detected, 28 percent who believe abortion should be allowed in the first and second trimesters, and 11 percent who believe abortion should be legal up until the moment of birth.

Twenty-four percent believe abortion should be banned except in the case of rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother.

Seventeen percent of respondents to the poll said they would want all abortions banned, except for cases where the mother’s life is at risk.

Warner said these numbers are not surprising.

“I know that represents the actual will of the majority of people who live in this state,” she said. “The way that the legislature is voting and acting does not represent the interests or the will of most of the people of this state.”

According to Warner, no exceptions would make an abortion ban acceptable.

“This is an extreme force of government control into people’s most personal decisions about pregnancy, about parenting, and about their healthcare,” she said. “It puts people’s lives at risk.”

Baumgartner, whose group seeks to offer alternatives to women who are seeking abortions, said the organization’s work is based around the idea that “all life is precious.”

“We would like to see a bill passed, a clean bill that would protect lives conceived in rape and incest,” he said. “It’s our understanding that there are circumstances medically where perhaps a medical exception may be required, but we believe that the children conceived in rape and incest are precious. I know several adults that were conceived in rape, and they are friends and precious and deserve to live.”

Anti-abortion activist Rebecca Kiessling, who was conceived because of rape said her position that a total ban on abortions with no exceptions should be adopted comes from her belief that the right to personhood is protected under the 14th Amendment.

“A whole slew of states have passed total protection, no exceptions except for life of the mother, which is pro-life, we don’t want to see anybody die, but they all passed clean bills,” she said. “There’s no reason why South Carolina can’t do the same. And so I’m here to make sure that they toe the line and to make sure that they don’t discriminate.”

Patty Toussaint has been fighting for abortion rights since the 1960s. She talked about her experience being pregnant as a 17-year-old changed her life, and left her feeling shunned by her hometown.

“I think that it’s such an important issue, it’s a woman’s right to choose,” she said. “It’s her body and it’s her life.”

Toussaint said she has hope that abortion rights will be protected in the long run.

“I have a lot of faith in women, and I think it may take time, but we’ll get there,” she said.

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