This is what I thought about as I tossed and turned for several hours last night:
H 3114, the deceitfully titled, "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," went before the SC Senate yesterday. That afternoon, The State ran a video of a woman -- and her daughter Savannah's -- testimony. Wendy Duke is dignified and well-spoken, and her remarks were carefully prepared. She has written an inspirational book about her daughter's first years, and she is a blogger. She introduces her daughter early on, and 14 1/2 year old Savannah comes to sit by her while her mother continues.
At 21 weeks, Ms. Duke's doctor informed her that there were potentially severe fetal abnormalities. At first glance, it sounds like the recommendation was based on the fact that one leg would be significantly shorter than the other. Listen carefully, though, because it turns out there was also "significant brain abnormality," so the recommendation to consider an abortion was more than responsible and justified.
Before she turns the microphone over to Savannah, Duke concludes, "At 21 weeks gestation, this former fetus' personality had already been established."
Well, no. And therein lies what is outrageous about this testimony. An emotional appeal mixing feelings with facts, combining the terms "fetus" and "personality" as though they actually made sense together, just does not belong in the South Carolina legislature.
Duke's comments were followed by a brief religious screed by her daughter. The camera panned on an anti-abortion pin that she wore prominently, with a photo of something that looked more like a premature infant than a fetus, saying, "20 week preborn child -- Please protect me."
National anti-abortion organizations advising the states have been careful not to frame legislation in religious terms and rather resort to nonsensical medical terms, hence "pain capable" and my favorite, "pre-born." We have heard legislators across this country claim such idiocy as because male fetuses have erections it is an obvious indication of pleasure, so therefore must feel pain. We have been constantly inundated with claims that the fetus appearing to flinch in response to stimuli assumes pain, although pain receptors have not yet been developed.
And here we have the testimony of a truly inspirational parent, and her truly amazing daughter, claiming that without this proposed law, her daughter would not exist. Also not true.
But it is well orchestrated and heart-wrenching. And here it is on video, and making it to the State website.
If you read to the end of the piece, though, you will find testimony by another woman, Jennifer Lane, describing the tremendously difficult decision she had to make in similar circumstances. With a five-year-old daughter, she had to make decisions based on not just the severe brain abnormalities, but also on whether she could care for a child with such limitations while also caring for her young daughter.
It is apparent that Ms Duke had the resources to give great amounts of time, pay for years of medical treatments, and nurture her disabled child without sacrificing her own health. She was able to provide well for her daughter, and to give her all the support that would assure she would excel in her endeavors. She is an exceptional woman, but she also had the freedom to assess her situation and make the best choice for her.
Yet here she is judging other women, each with unique situations -- financial, familial, emotional -- by testifying that there should be a law preventing them from being able to make the choice that she was allowed to make.
To their credit, the subcommittee has asked for medical professionals to make recommendations on an amendment for exceptions for fetal abnormalities and the health of the woman. On the other hand, it assumes that this procedure has been done excessively and frivolously and that a law is needed. And they also seem to have accepted the erroneous claim that this ban is necessary because of fetal pain.
In any event, the subcommittee will be meeting again around April 1, a fitting time for fools to meet. And it will give me a few days to catch up on my sleep.