fetal pain amendments ruled out of order

ultrasoundThe Senate recently passed a bill to restrict the circumstances under which a child may be killed by an abortion doctor after nineteen weeks of its life. The majority of debate on the bill concerned the inclusion or removal of the three exceptions of rape, incest and life of the mother. The effort to remove two of them, rape and incest, as conditions for a post-nineteen-week abortion failed. I am hopeful that the House will remove them when it takes up the bill, but we’ll see.

I was equally disappointed in the outcome of two amendments that I proposed that would have, first, outlawed the dismemberment of a child during its death at the hand of an abortion doctor and, second, outlawed a lethal injection by the abortion doctor into the beating heart of a child. Neither amendment was adopted, but my disappointment arose not as much from that as from the fact that they were not even given a chance to be heard. They were ruled out-of-order by the Presiding Officer, and therefore the Senate never heard my discussion of them and never took a vote on whether these forms of infanticide should remain legal in South Carolina.

The Senate Rules require a proposed amendment to any bill to be “germane”. That is, it “must be a natural and logical change or expansion directly related to the specific subject of the Bill or Resolution, as defined in the Bill or Resolution, and must not raise any new or independent matter different from the specific subject of the Bill or Resolution.” An example would be an amendment to a bill about colleges that tried to change the law concerning water use by farmers. Those clearly are two different subjects. The question of germaneness may be made by any senator, and I have raised a few myself over the years, and the question is ruled upon by the Presiding Officer as the presiding Officer of the Senate.

The specific subject of bill in this case was a new set of prohibitions concerning the death of a child by an abortion doctor, i.e. that such a death would be prohibited after nineteen weeks of life. My first amendment likewise offered another prohibition, that the abortion doctor may not kill the child by dismemberment. My second amendment sought to prohibit the abortion doctor from injecting death-inducing drugs into the beating heart of the child. Both dealt with prohibitions against killing children, and both were ruled non-germane by the Presiding Officer. I have no idea why, and the Presiding Officer made no explanation. He is not obliged to explain his rulings, but I have seen it done plenty of times in my ten-plus years in the Senate, particularly by our most recent Presiding Officer, Glenn McConnell. This time, however, there was silence.

What was worse even than that, however, was the refusal of the Presiding Officer to let me even be heard on the dismemberment amendment. When germaneness is questioned, it is called raising a point of order, and the presiding Officer, (almost always the Lieutenant Governor Lieutenant Governor Presiding Officer) asks if anyone would like to be heard on the point. This is the opportunity for senators to discuss the merits of the point, i.e. their view on whether the amendment is germane. When the point was made on the dismemberment amendment, the Presiding Officer ruled the amendment out-of-order before I could get to my desk and seek recognition, and when I finally did, he replied that. “the point is over”. That, in my ten-plus years, I never, ever, have seen.

My next amendment also was challenged, and because I was standing at my desk with my hand raised, I was recognized, but even as my voice trailed off from arguing my side, the Presiding Officer said, “sustained” (the amendment is out-of-order).

I am, of course, most disappointed that innocent children will continue to die at the hands of abortionists by the most cruel and unusual means possible. I am only slightly less disappointed that a Republican Presiding Officer decided that amendments about killing children were not relevant to a bill about killing children. I am absolutely amazed, however, that I was denied even the chance to talk about the first one and that the second was disposed of with the kind of speed that, to some, suggested outright embarrassment.

I will, in the future, draw my amendments even more carefully, but I truly hope that this episode is not a preview of what we can expect in the South Carolina Senate when we next debate a bill to prevent the deaths of innocent children. Their odds already are long, and we already have to fight hard to secure them their right to life. I shudder to think that the fight just got harder because of one individual’s unilateral decisions.