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South Carolina Legislators Reject Rape, Incest Abortion Ban

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina legislators Wednesday rejected plans to ban abortions in the state's health insurance plan in cases of rape or incest or when they're needed to protect a mother's health.

The late night debate and 57-54 vote came in the midst of discussion a $5 billion spending plan that left the House Ways and Means Committee last month with the abortion ban.

Democrats railed against it then and again Wednesday.

"This is a misguided attempt and a misguided effort to do what some believe is right," said state Rep. Bakari Sellers, a Denmark Democrat.

He said the Republicans pushing the measure couldn't understand the gravity of what they were doing. "When you are that person that is pinned down in the back alley and raped; when you are that person that is actually assaulted sexually by your father -- this is not a time for us to play political games. This is not the time for me to say my God is better than yours. This is a time to do what is right," Sellers said.

State Rep. Greg Delleney, a Chester Republican, said the change would only affect people covered by the state health insurance plan and he'd offer a measure that would allow for abortions when a mother's health was threatened. But that's as far as he would go. "We live in a civilized society," Delleney said. "We do not kill children for what their fathers do."

That was little comfort to state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, who counsels women professionally.

"How dare you," said Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg. She said legislators were telling women, "forget what you want to do, we know better."

Republican Rep. Wendy Nanney of Greenville disagreed. "Women do not have a right to take that life," Nanney said. Pregnancies are "a life. It's a precious gift. Maybe we don't like how it was created and the circumstances in which it was created."

Democrat Rep. Lester Branham, a retired Lake City pastor, urged legislators to discern the difference between a gift and a crime. "That act of impregnating that girl against her will is not a gift of God. It's a crime. It's a crime against her and a crime against all humanity in my opinion," Branham said.

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