DOVER, DE. – Two bills designed to limit abortion remain mired in committee and face an uncertain future in Delaware’s legislature.
The two, Senate Bills 19 and 21, are the Women’s Ultrasound Right to Know Act and the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and were the topic of a March hearing before the Senate Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee. Both are sponsored by Senator Bryant Richardson, R-Seaford.
The Protection Act makes it illegal to have an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, although it makes an exception if the mother’s life is in danger or there may be irreversible damage to a major bodily function. The ultrasound legislation would require that women be offered a chance to see an ultrasound before they have an abortion.
Richardson said on March 29 that the two remain in committee, but that he will do everything he can to get them voted out of committee. If voted out, that means the issue will be heard by the full Senate.
Delaware’s legislature ends its session on June 30, meaning the bills would have to be voted out of committee and passed by both the Senate and the House by then in order for anything to be approved this year.
Sen. Elizabeth Lockman,D-Wilmington, the committee chairwoman, said she expected a vote last month but there has been no movement.
The bills were the subject of a rally at Legislative Hall on Wednesday, March 27. More than 100 supporters, many wearing lime green shirts and carrying placards, called for the bills to move forward. “Protect our babies. Vote yes,” read one.
“Life, Justice, Human Rights begin in the Womb,” read the t-shirts.
The crowd gathered outside Legislative Hall on a bright spring day. A group of seven supportive legislators stood behind speakers who held a plastic baby aloft and told horror stories of the impact of abortion.
Speakers said fetuses “are torn limb from limb” and alleged that the fetus could feel pain.
Rep. Tim Dukes, R-Laurel, said that “we are for life and believe that life is precious.”
Kathryn Glenn Foster of Americans United for Life spoke about being a frightened and pregnant 19-year-old who asked to see an ultrasound before having an abortion performed. “We know ultrasounds change minds. Ultrasounds save lives,” she said.
A young woman named T.J. McGee told the audience that she and her two brothers were born into horrific conditions with nearly absent parents. She said she remembers struggling to reach a jar of peanut butter or jelly on a shelf so the three of them could have something to eat.
“Almost from a toddler, I had to be a caregiver,” she said.
She said some might have thought their lives were not worth living, but the three were adopted by a loving family. All three have thrived and both brothers are now serving in the military, she said to loud applause.
“I do not believe that a bad beginning determines a bad ending,” she said.
Richardson said he was heartened by the rally, but said it will take sustained pressure by voters to write letters, call legislators and come to Legislative Hall for the bills to get approval.
The March hearing prompted Richardson to circulate new legislation, Senate Bill 36, which would make false testimony before committee legislators perjury. “False testimony, intentional or not, can have serious negative consequences. Those testifying before a committee have a responsibility to make sure they have checked their facts,” he wrote in a column.
His concern arose after comments that a fetus could not feel pain until about 29 to 30 weeks. He said other recent studies have shown the fetus can feel pain much earlier and that speakers at the March hearing should have known better.
“Legislators must demand the most current and accurate information available when making decisions, particularly life and death decisions,” he wrote.
At the committee hearing in March, Melanie Ross Levin, director of the state Office of Women’s Advancement and Advocacy, said she was also representing Gov. John Carney in asking the Senate committee to reject the bills. She said they would “pose an unconstitutional ban on women’s rights.”