The last time we checked in on South Carolina state Rep. Neal Collins (R), he was upset about the horrifying yet predictable consequences of his own actions: He had learned from a doctor that the six-week abortion ban he voted for put the lives of miscarrying patients at risk, and he felt so bad he lost sleep for a week over it. Well, Collins appears to have bounced back quickly from all that regret, because he voted for another abortion ban on Tuesday night.
Collins went viral after sharing that a doctor told him about a 19-year-old whose water broke at 15 weeks and who couldn’t get proper care because the fetus still had a heartbeat. The teenager was at risk of losing her uterus and even dying, Collins recounted.
“The doctor told me...There’s a greater than 50 percent chance that she’s going to lose her uterus. There’s a 10 percent chance that she will develop sepsis and herself die. That weighs on me. I voted for that bill. These are affecting people,” Collins said. “That whole week I did not sleep.”
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Collins made the speech as South Carolina lawmakers were considering a new, near-total ban, House Bill 5399. On Tuesday, Collins voted against a version of the bill that contained zero exceptions for rape or incest—that version failed 47 to 55. But lawmakers kept amending the bill and holding more votes. In the end, Collins voted for a version that includes the extremely limited exception of allowing abortions for pregnancies that result from rape and incest if the pregnancy is less than 12 weeks along and if the doctor reports the rape to law enforcement. The bill also allows abortions to save a pregnant person’s life but criminalizes doctors if they perform abortions for any other reason. The final bill passed 67 to 38.
Collins wrote a lengthy Facebook post describing the reaction he’s gotten since his speech about the teenager, as well as comments from his constituents about the bill he’d be voting on. He concluded:
For all the above reasons, after hundreds of discussions, hours of thought and prayer, I could not vote for a bill that requires a 12 year old rape victim to carry. I voted against that bill. That bill failed 47-55. I understand I will upset the segment who want a full ban without exceptions.
The bill was then moved for reconsideration in which rape and incest exceptions up to 12 weeks were put in, child support for fathers from date of conception, & other clean up language. The bill protects contraception, IVF, and clearly lists conditions in which mother’s life is at risk (hopefully eliminating the 19 yo situation). No other amendments passed or would have passed. Criminality on doctors stayed in, which the majority of my constituents approved but I personally did not. Since exceptions were put in, I voted for the second bill. It passed 67-38. I understand I will upset the segment who did not want anything to pass.
I knew, at the end, no one would cheer a nuanced position. I fully understand the comments are about to be all negative. It’s why I led off with something more important than this issue - where we receive our information, how we communicate with each other, & can we return to being a community that knows one another or do we just tweet insults at one another? I’m trying to do my part to the best of my ability. With that, I’m now humbly your punching bag...
Yes, the bill lists miscarriage as one of several medical conditions that pose a clear risk of death to the pregnant person, but hospitals will still be managing their legal risk for doctors who could be criminally charged for violating the law, if it passes and takes effect. Who’s to say that hospitals won’t delay care for people miscarrying until they’re showing signs of infection?
And Collins cannot claim that this bill won’t force rape survivors—especially child survivors—to carry pregnancies to term. Girls can get their first period, and be capable of getting pregnant, anywhere from ages 8 to 14 but they may not know the signs of pregnancy. Combine that fact with shame and stigma, and rape survivors may not tell their parents or caretakers they’re pregnant until they’re much further along than 12 weeks.
Jezebel contacted Collins for comment and did not hear back by publication time.
The state Senate will return after Labor Day to consider this bill.