The Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act (H 3548) cleared its first hurdle on March 8, passing the Constitutional Laws Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 3-0. Voting in favor of the dismemberment ban were Subcommittee Chairman Peter McCoy, R-Charleston, Judiciary Committee Chairman Greg Delleney, R-Chester, and Representative Weston Newton, R-Beaufort. Democrats James Smith of Richland County and Mandy Powers Norrell of Laurens, did not attend the meeting.
The bill now advances to the full committee.
Representative Lin Bennett, R- Charleston, chief sponsor of the dismemberment bill, explained that the language of H3548 bans a procedure — abortions that use forceps and other instruments to rip a living baby apart limb by limb — and is similar to the 1997 Partial- Birth Abortion Ban.
“It is a limited procedure,” she said.Organizations speaking in favor of banning dismemberment abortion included South Carolina Citizens for Life (the NRLC state affiliate); the Catholic Diocese of Charleston; the South Carolina Baptist Convention; Palmetto Family Council and its affiliated Nehemiah Project.
National Right to Life attorney Jennifer Popik, a legislation expert, was the principle witness who explained the constitutionality of the dismemberment ban.It likely will be upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, she said, on similar grounds to those the court found to uphold the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in 2007.
In unusual testimony in favor of the bill, Wayne Cockfield of Florence, SC, a retired Marine Corps sergeant, told the subcommittee he is “someone who has been dismembered.” Mr. Cockfield, NRLC’s Vice President for Medical Ethics, was severely wounded in the Vietnam War and lost both legs. His legs were amputated “as a last resort to save my life,” he explained, saying “I cannot imagine dismembering an unborn baby in order to kill it.”
Pointing to the clinical line drawing of the dismemberment procedure, he drew gasps when he said, “In the Middle Ages criminals were executed by being drawn and quartered, but a civilized world outlawed it.” He called on the subcommittee members to “do what is right. Stop the torture killing of unborn babies.”
After the vote, Mrs. Popik said, “We are pleased that South Carolina has taken this first step towards protecting unborn children. Dismemberment abortions are a common and brutal type of D&E abortion which involves dismembering a living unborn child piece by piece.
“The violent and dehumanizing nature of dismemberment abortion,” Mrs. Popik said, “undermines the public’s perception of the appropriate role of a physician and confuses the medical, legal, and ethical duties of physicians to preserve and promote life.”
The usual parade of pro-abortion entities testified against the bill including Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, the League of Women Voters, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. One pro- abortion attorney argued that dismembering a baby is “the safest and most cost effective” method of later abortions.