While the wackos in the SC legislature are gleefully making hay out of the lies about Planned Parenthood, we were smacked in the head by a new bill from our own state senator, Vincent Sheheen. S 1001, titled simply 'though not elegantly, "Abortion," will provide that
NO PERSON, ENTITY, OR ASSOCIATION SHALL OFFER OR ACCEPT MONEY OR ANYTHING OF VALUE FOR AN ABORTED FETUS OR ANY PORTION OF AN ABORTED FETUS; AND TO PROVIDE FOR PENALTIES.
Vincent Sheheen, who ran for governor for the second time against Nikki Haley in 2014, had a reputation for leaving the room rather than vote on abortion bills. Many Democratic women, including those who worked hard to get him elected, confronted him on his lack of support for women's reproductive choice. In a meeting I attending in 2014, he told the gathering that he would defend women's right to medical privacy and their right to get the best medical care available.
You might say that S 1001 really isn't an attack on a woman's right to choose to have an abortion. Vincent comes across as a nice, even a gentle guy (which may be why Nikki was able to slice and dice him -- twice). And many Democrats come to his defense saying that he is just being true to his Catholic faith.
Let me ask this: if a Muslim were to propose a bill based on their faith, would Sheheen's defenders step back and make excuses? This is very much the slippery slope that comes of allowing decisions of state to hinge on religious belief. In fact, too many of our Christian politicians have been a party to a slew of bills that would set Muslims apart in the practice of their faith, in their right to privacy, in our judicial system. This is because too many operate on the false assumption that our country's rule of law is actually at one with Christianity.
So, back to S 1001. It doesn't prohibit abortion (there are quite enough bills, at least fifteen in this session, that would do that). It merely prohibits accepting money for fetal tissue. Except for a couple of things.
First of all, there is already a federal law that prohibits profiting from fetal tissue. However, it is acceptable -- as it is in any business -- to receive reimbursement for the cost of the collection, storage and transportation of fetal tissue. Once again, our legislators seek to inhibit the right of those who provide abortion services, by creating a different -- more intrusive and costly -- set of rules than they might for other businesses, say, a gun dealer.
Secondly, the bill uses the word "abortion" in its title, and twice in its heading uses "aborted fetus" rather than the more appropriate "fetal tissue." Dog whistles, anyone?
Finally, since the hoax video that provided the red meat for sleazy pols like Carly Fiorina and Nikki Haley to attack Planned Parenthood, a bill like S 1001, which has absolutely no purpose, further enrages a base which chooses to be uninformed about the reality of Planned Parenthood's work. The hoped-for result is likely not just organizations opting out of being reimbursed for fetal tissue (as did Planned Parenthood), but an end to the donation of fetal tissue.
And that is where Sheheen has gone beyond anti-abortion into the realm of anti-science. There are women who decide to have an abortion and ask that the fetal tissue be donated to scientific research; in an unhappy situation, they at least will be contributing to help others. Important research is being done with fetal stem cells in Alzheimer's Disease and spinal cord injury, and more. And this SC legislator is joining ranks with liars like Fiorina to enrage the uninformed further.
Which leaves so many of us asking, "What the hell is with Vincent Sheheen?" This is not just a matter of a Catholic avoiding a controversial vote. This is an active attack on the dignity and the privacy of a medical establishment dedicated to the care of women's reproductive health. Further, this is an attack on established science, in an area where lives can be saved with fetal stem cell research.
Here's what I think. I think Vincent is running for re-election in 2016. He may be feeling a little insecure after his gubernatorial loss two years ago. And he is indeed a conservative in a conservative district. He may be convinced that he is not conservative enough. So, run as a Democrat and live like a republican.
I hope that as you read about this bill, you take action to let Senator Sheheen know that his action is an affront to Democratic women, many of whom have worked for him, throughout the state, in his two bids for governor. We had doubts because of his seeming inability to separate his religious beliefs from his political office, but we took him at his word and supported him. And in sponsoring this bill, he has failed in his duty. Tell him he should remove the bill, or he should decline to run as a Democrat.
Ask our party officers to confront Sheheen with this affront to the stated ideals of the Democratic Party, and to the women of South Carolina.
In a year when we stand strong in the battle to defend our legal rights to reproductive freedom, there is no excuse for being silent as a member of our party takes steps to restrict that freedom. Further, we should have no patience with elected officials who actively seek to restrict scientific discovery, especially in medical research.
I am hoping that there is someone in the 27th District that will primary Sheheen, and that a true and unafraid Democrat will get elected in his stead.