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The Freedom of Conscience Act and the Huh? Caucus

Americans United for Life analyzes state laws related to Life every year. AUL even goes so far as to rank the states in the strength of their laws on abortion, protection of the unborn (in contexts outside of abortion), bioethics, the end-of-life, and health care freedom of conscience.

South Carolina is currently ranked 19th of the 50 states. 19th. We can do better.

But in order to be rated among the Top Ten pro-life states in the country, we must close two serious gaps: Born Alive Infant Protection and Conscience Protection. We discussed Born Alive in our last message to you.

When it comes to Conscience, though South Carolina law is very strong on the right to object to taking part in abortion, there is no protection for health care professionals or institutions in other ethically questionable areas such as stem cell research or euthanasia.

So, we were glad to see H.3408, the South Carolina Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Act, which came up on the House floor for an extended debate last Tuesday.

If you read the online voting score sheet on H. 3408 posted on the statehouse website, you will see that 69 members voted in favor of final passage of the bill, 41 voted against, 5 were excused, and eight 8 just didn’t bother to vote.

We win. Sounds good. But what does it really mean?

To get a clear picture of the real position of each individual legislator on the larger issue of Life, we must consider all votes cast on Born Alive and Conscience last Tuesday. So, Palmetto Family took all 9 roll calls and analyzed them in a huge spreadsheet (1,107 cells for those of you who appreciate such things).

When tallied, the nine roll call votes reveal three distinct groups of legislators as pie charted above:

  • 60% voted pro-life every single time. This Consistently Pro-Life group of 74 voted pro-life right down to procedural motions like tabling and “carrying over,” as well as amendments and final passage.
  • 20% were equally as consistent on the other side. These 25 or so Consistently Pro-”Choice” members of the General Assembly voted wrong every single time, whether it be procedural or passage.
  • 20% could be called The Huh? Caucus (24). These state representatives did everything they could to water down the bill by voting for amendments that would have weakened it. Or, they voted to kill the bill procedurally. But, with 60% of the House sticking with the pro-life position every single time the voting bell rang, these folks eventually reversed course and voted for final passage. That way they could say they voted for the bill while actually trying to eviscerate it. This group voted Aye only when the outcome was inevitable. Of the 24, seven (7) members in particular were all over the map. They voted for some weakening amendments and not others, and some didn’t vote for final passage after voting against some of the weakening amendments.

Palmetto Family Alliance will continue to monitor the voting records of the members of the South Carolina House and Senate in preparation for our 2011-2012 Legislative Scorecard. The Scorecard will include The Huh? Caucus. To review the Scorecard from the last legislative session, please visit this page.

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