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A thousand words

South Carolina lawmakers hope an ultrasound law will persuade women to choose life

Marie Connelly has only one picture of her child. An abortionist at a Planned Parenthood center in South Carolina produced the ultrasound image to confirm Connelly's pregnancy moments before her abortion four years ago. Connelly recently went back to the center to ask for the picture, which was still on file. She wishes she had seen it before her abortion: "I would have crumbled."

Connelly now works for the Palmetto Family Council, a pro-life group in Columbia, S.C., that is marshalling support for a bill that would require a woman to view an ultrasound image of her unborn child before having an abortion. The South Carolina House passed the legislation on March 21. If the Senate passes the bill in early April as expected, South Carolina will be the first state in the nation with the requirement.

Several states already have laws related to abortions and ultrasounds: In Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin, abortionists must tell women an ultrasound is available. If abortion personnel in Arkansas or Michigan perform an ultrasound, they must give the woman an opportunity to view it.

Workers at abortion centers in South Carolina perform ultrasounds to determine the age of unborn children, and the state's informed consent law requires them to inform women of the likely gestational stage. The law also requires the centers to offer information on fetal development and alternatives to abortion, though women may decline the material.

South Carolina Rep. Greg Delleney, a Republican, sponsored the current legislation, saying that it is a natural addition to the informed consent law, and that women should have as much information as possible before undergoing an abortion.

Connelly told WORLD she wishes that she had possessed more information when she learned she was pregnant while a student at the University of South Carolina. Connelly, who grew up in a Christian home, was devastated and ashamed. She says a nurse at the school's health center assured her: "You can have an abortion and you'll be fine." The nurse added: "I've had two."

Though she knew what she was doing was wrong, Connelly arrived at a local Planned Parenthood center "in a state of immense numbness." A clause in the paperwork offered material on fetal development. Connelly declined: "What woman who has already made up her mind is going to opt for that?" When the abortionist performed an ultrasound, the screen faced away from Connelly.

Connelly, who believes she would have stopped the abortion if she had viewed the image, says that requiring women to view ultrasound images could have a profound effect: "I think the ultrasound could be a firecracker that will break them out of their catatonic numbness and awaken them to reality."

The ultrasound legislation proved a firecracker issue when it came to the South Carolina House floor in March. Representatives engaged in three hours of heated debate.

Opponents of the bill called it "emotional blackmail." Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, a Democrat who led opposition to the legislation, quoted Scripture about justice and told the bill's supporters: "You love them in the womb, but once they get here it's a different story." She added: "You're sitting here passing judgment. Who gave you the right?"

Supporters of the bill also offered sometimes emotional testimony. Republican Rep. Alan Clemmons fought tears when he talked about the women who gave birth to his two adopted daughters, and recalled a prayer offered by his 11-year-old. "She thanked her God, her Father in heaven, for loving her enough to give her life," he said. "I thank my God for those young mothers who chose to give them life."

A handful of representatives opposed the bill on the grounds that it doesn't provide an exemption for victims of rape and incest. Delleney, the bill's House sponsor, says the unborn children in those terrible cases are no less valuable. The bill now heads to the GOP-controlled Senate, where at least two Republican senators favor adding an exemption for victims of such crimes.

Connelly says pressing for the ultrasound legislation is just one part of her organization's efforts to tell women that they don't have to choose between abortion and misery: "Women don't realize that abortion itself brings misery."

Jamie Dean

Jamie Dean

Jamie is WORLD’s national editor based in Charlotte, N.C. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.