COLUMBIA — A bill that opponents say would have shuttered S.C. abortion clinics died in a state Senate subcommittee Wednesday.
State Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, introduced the bill to require doctors performing abortions to have board certification in obstetrics and gynecology. Doctors performing abortions in outpatient settings also would been required to have staff privileges at a local hospital.
The proposal is similar to a law that passed recently in Mississippi. A federal judge temporarily has blocked that law, which threatened to close Mississippi’s only abortion provider.
Bright said the bill would require hospital oversight of abortion clinics, preventing doctors like Kermit Gosnell from operating in South Carolina. Gosnell is a Philadelphia abortion provider currently on trial on charges of killing four babies allegedly born alive.
Opponents – including doctors, representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood, and a Greenville-area abortion provider – said the bill would impose unnecessary regulations on already regulated medical practices.
“The bill does nothing to protect patient safety, but instead creates medically unnecessary and redundant regulations for private businesses and medical professionals in an effort to ban abortion in South Carolina,” said Robin Garrell, a Spartanburg internal medicine doctor.
Requiring abortion providers to have hospital staff privileges could force women’s reproductive health clinics to close if hospitals – wary of associating with abortion providers – decline those privileges, the bill’s opponents said.
There currently are three women’s health clinics and nine physicians in South Carolina that do abortions. Few have privileges to admit and treat patients in hospitals, said Sloane Whelan, public affairs director for Planned Parenthood in the state.
Richard Cash, who has announced he will run against U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in 2014 and daughter Laura Cash, a registered nurse, spoke in support of the bill. Laura Cash said the bill would ensure women have doctors with the specialized training necessary to deal with complications.
The Senate subcommittee voted 3-2 to carry over the bill, effectively killing it for the year. The panel’s chairman, state Sen. Raymond Cleary, R-Georgetown, who voted against the proposal, said he has no intention of bringing the proposal back up.
In 2011, 10,117 S.C. women had abortions, or 10.9 for every 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control – the state’s lowest abortion rate in 20 years.