COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A Senate panel Thursday softened anti-abortion legislation by dropping a requirement that women seeking an abortion must first review an ultrasound image of their fetus.
The change Thursday would give women the option of viewing their ultrasound. The House last month passed a plan to require doctors performing the procedure to show the ultrasound to women.
The amended version puts South Carolina more in line with what other states have done. The House version put South Carolina alone in requiring women review the pictures.
The five senators Thursday, with Orangeburg Democrat Brad Hutto voting absentee, took out the section of the bill that required a woman seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound image of the fetus.
"We believe that by getting away from a mandate that we believe is not necessary because we believe these ultrasounds are being done anyway, that it satisfies those who were concerned that we were placing a burden that wasn't really necessary," said Republican Senator Mike Fair.
The amendment that says a doctor must tell the woman she has the right to view the image - but is not forced to see it. The bill also requires a doctor to provide the woman with a description of what she's viewing.
Some might see the Senate version as weaker - just a way to write current DHEC regulations into law. Abortion foes, including the Palmetto Family Council's Oran Smith, say the Senate bill is more likely to stand a constitutional test. "We have to be realistic about where we are right now legally. And legally, there are boundaries that we can't cross unless we want to be tied up in court."
Fair says if the amended version of the bill becomes law, more women will see ultrasounds and they will see them sooner in their pregnancies.
Critics say the state is still putting an unneeded burden on women facing one of the toughest decisions of their lives. Victim advocate Vicki Bourus says, "It's a disappointment. It's unfortunate. I think there are so many better ways that legislators could spend their time protecting young people from the decision - from ending up having to make the decision. We're not doing that in this state and that's a shame."
Bourus and a spokesman for Planned Parenthood say the state needs to pay the same kind of attention to education and preventing pregnancies.
The only woman in the Senate, Chester Senator Linda Short, said the state should not force a woman to do something against her will. Short says she would never support the House version.
The amended bill now goes to the full Senate Medical Affairs Committee - and supporters think it will eventually get Senate approval. Then, House and Senate will have to work out their differences.
updated by Bryce Mursch