July 24, 2014

SC Senate panel advances bill that could close abortion clinics

State Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg (Image: SCETV)

State Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg (Image: SCETV)

A South Carolina Senate panel on Thursday advanced legislation that would require physicians who perform abortions to be board-certified in gynecology and obstetrics, as well as having privileges to admit patients to nearby hospitals.

The bill’s sponsor, Spartanburg Republican Lee Bright, made no secret that S. 204 is an attempt to shut down at least one of South Carolina’s three clinics that provide the service. “You want the safety of the facilities,” he told South Carolina Radio Network after the meeting. “But also anything I can do to limit abortions in South Carolina I’m going to try to do so.”

The bill quickly cleared a Senate subcommittee with no debate, as Senate Medical Affairs Committee chairman Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, wanted it to be taken up at the full committee level due to its controversial nature.

A similar law in Texas forced nearly half of clinics there to close because they were not in compliance. A 2012 law in Mississippi briefly shuttered the state’s only clinic, before a federal judge gave it time to comply with the law.

ACLU South Carolina director Vicki Middleton said the bill purposefully throws up regulations that make it harder for clinics to operate. “It’s an undue requirement that the medical profession does not deem necessary,” she told South Carolina Radio Network. “It simply serves the purpose of making it impossible for women to get this kind of care at health centers.”

Middleton said that the bill would hurt access, especially for women in rural areas outside South Carolina’s main population centers of Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville. She said Thursday it was too early in the process to speculate on any legal action, should the bill become law.

Bright was not optimistic on the bill’s chances this year, with less than three months remaining in the session. But he said he will fight for its passage. “I’m not going to be a part of the ‘culture of death.’ If others choose to, that’s fine, but I’m going to do everything I can to restrict and eliminate abortion in this state.”