“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” This was true in Jefferson's day, and it's true in ours. Since 1973, conservatives, unable to overturn the historic Roe v. Wade decision outright, have been unrelenting in chipping away at women's reproductive rights. Here in South Carolina, their latest chip is a bill requiring women seeking an abortion to wait at least 24 hours after their appointment at a medical clinic in order to secure an ultrasound test. It has already passed our House of Representatives, and it looks like it will pass the Senate as well.
I was honored to have been invited by Planned Parenthood to testify at a Senate Medical Affairs Committee hearing against the bill. It should come as no surprise that I was the only minister present for choice, while the other side had several. I want to share with you my testimony:
Senators, you have heard some of my colleagues in ministry argue on behalf of this bill, using the Bible as their reference book. As I listen to their arguments, I am reminded that someone once said, “We do not read the Bible the way it is; we read it the way we are.” There is no need to argue here or anywhere else what the Bible says about abortion because the bottom-line is that the Bible says absolutely nothing about abortion. Not one word.
But even if it did, that would not matter because your job as legislators is not to enact Biblical law into South Carolina law. We are not a theocracy, and you are not theologians. We are a democracy, and your sworn duty is to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of this state and of the United States. The Constitution of the United States guarantees women the right to choose an abortion. This bill requiring a mandatory 24-hour waiting period is a medically unnecessary encroachment of that right, and it creates a burden that falls, as most burdens fall, on working people. Under this bill, a working woman would have to take two days off from work instead of one, arrange childcare for two days instead of one, and make two trips to a medical clinic instead of one. If she lives in a rural area of our state, that could be two lengthy trips. In a state with the second highest unemployment rate in the country, working people can not and will not risk losing their jobs. This bill will have the effect of
deterring women from exercising their Constitutional right.
Perhaps even more disturbing is what this bill implies about women as human beings. A law requiring a woman to wait before she can make a decision implies that she is, in some way, a defective decision-maker, that her reason is faulty, that her judgment is flawed, that her morality is deficient. This bill is insulting to the dignity of women, and I have to wonder whether such a bill would even be considered if the Senate were all female instead of all male.
There is much talk today about the intrusiveness of big government. The decision to terminate a pregnancy is one of the most intimate, personal decisions a woman can make. She must consider her health, welfare, and future, and she must consider the health, welfare, and future of her potential child and of her present family. This is sacred ground, and the government has no business trampling on this sacred ground. This bill represents Big Brother government at its worst.
I urge you, the representatives of the people, to be representatives of all the people – of people of various religious beliefs and no religious beliefs, of men and women, who are equal in the eyes of God and should be equal in the eyes of the law. I urge you not to treat women as second-class citizens. I urge you to defeat this bill.