South Carolina lawmakers are considering H 4223, a bill that would create a compelling state interest in protecting unborn children capable of feeling pain from death by abortion. To date, 10 other states have passed laws that protect the pain-capable unborn child. The U.S. Senate also is considering similar legislation and the U.S. House has passed a similar bill.
Testifying in favor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act at a February 6 hearing of the House Judiciary General Law’s subcommittee, Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee, said that substantial medical research shows the unborn child feels pain by 20 weeks after fertilization.
Balch told the three-member panel that “the critical question is whether five U.S. Supreme Court Justices will agree that states may successfully assert a compelling state interest in protecting the lives of unborn children from the state at which there is substantial medical evidence that they are capable of feeling pain.”
Mrs. Balch said that based on prior decisions, she believes that given the opportunity to review the legal principle, the court would uphold a compelling state interest.
Following a one week furlough previously scheduled for the South Carolina House of Representatives, the panel will continue hearing testimony during the week of February 17. If approved, H 4223, will then go to the full House Judiciary Committee for further consideration.
Representative Wendy Nanney, R-Greenville, chief sponsor of the bill, told the panel that “As a mother of five, I understand wanting to protect my children from pain. That’s what a mother does.”
Crucial testimony in support of the bill focused on the science of when pain receptors develop in the pre-natal child.
Margaret A. Brinly, a biomedical scientist with a specialty in neuroscience, told the panel that research clearly demonstrates changes in “catecholamine levels” within the baby’s blood during periods of stress such as prenatal surgery. This is known to occur before 20 weeks gestation. Dr. Brinley explained the function of the thalamus for pain perception and said it is possible that the unborn child feels pain more intensely than an adult.
Dr. Brinley testified that when doing experiments on rats, she was required to provide specific information about how the animal would be protected from pain.
“Think about the difference between a rat and a human being,” she said, and urged the panel members to “always err on the side of humanity.”
Included among those testifying against the bill were the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood of South Carolina, and the South Carolina Chapter of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
The bill is strongly supported by South Carolina Citizens for Life, the South Carolina Baptist Convention, the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, and the Christian World View Center of North Greenville University.