Tearful South Carolina Lawmaker Explains Why He Voted to Ban Abortion—Again - DMT NEWS

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Tearful South Carolina Lawmaker Explains Why He Voted to Ban Abortion—Again

Earlier this month, South Carolina GOP lawmaker Neal Collins went viral after breaking down during a committee hearing over the impact of a new abortion ban on a 19-year-old.

Collins recalled a phone call with a doctor who told him the teen could not receive an abortion under the law, which went into effect after the fall of Roe v. Wade in July, despite experiencing a miscarriage at 15 weeks. She faced multiple health risks and could have died.

“That weighs on me. I voted for that bill. These are affecting people,” he said in a tearful plea during a Judiciary Committee hearing in the South Carolina Statehouse.

And yet on Tuesday, Collins voted for yet another abortion ban: one that grants exceptions for rape and incest victims up until 12 weeks of pregnancy, with a variety of exceptions for the life of the mother. This was after Collins voted against an earlier version of the bill that would grant no exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother.

Collins talked to VICE News about why he voted once again to ban abortion in South Carolina, even after appearing to regret the impact of an earlier ban.

VICE News: Why did you vote that way Tuesday night? 

Neal Collins: My district believes in pro-life measures, and where they're hedging on it is they do want exceptions. The original bill yesterday did not have the exceptions in it, and I voted against that. That bill failed. And then once it failed, we were able to reconsider the bill, amend it to include the exceptions. And I voted for it at that point. There was an effort in-between there creating exceptions just for minors. And, you know, privately in our meetings, I made it clear that I couldn't go for that. I couldn't distinguish between an 18-year-old versus a 19-year-old. So fortunately, from my perspective, we concluded the exception with no age limit. 

And just explain something about the law that passed last night: Abortions will be completely outlawed automatically, except for rape, incest and the health of the mother? 


The exceptions for rape and incest are only up to 12 weeks. Is that correct?

That's correct.

If this bill does not allow for those exceptions past 12 weeks for the victims of rape and incest, are you basically telling a woman or a child who is 13 weeks pregnant that she is forced to carry the baby?

The will of the majority was on the exceptions; they wanted to keep it to the first trimester because half the caucus didn't want the exceptions to begin with. The other half wanted the exceptions, so ultimately, compromise, politics, how you pass a bill won the day on that. 

But I guess what skewed some people a little bit more for it is their thought that the vast majority of women who are raped will know and have the ability to make a decision in that first trimester. Now, there is an obvious story of, you know, incest and keeping it hidden, or a wife keeping that hidden in domestic violence situations. 

But what do you personally think? Do you think that there should be exceptions for those women past that timeframe?

I personally believe the exceptions should be past the timeframe, yes.

You had said earlier this month that the vote you took weighs on you. Why did you then support, again, a restrictive abortion ban?

What I meant by it weighs on me is that we need to have a good policy come out of whatever we do. The process needs to be respected. So that was my point. I guess the narrative is that I regret the six-week ban. That's not true. From my perspective, what I regret is one of two things: Either those attorneys were not clear in what our intent was because our intent was clear that we did not want that 19-year-old situation to occur. So we made it even more clear in this bill. But even that being said, if the second part of the regret is I didn't make it clearer for a future attorney to understand our intent. 

A national poll in July found that a majority of Americans, 64 percent, believe that abortion should be legal in most or all cases. The bill that you guys just passed does not allow for abortion in most or all cases. How are you representing the will of the people when you pass something that is not in line with what most people feel? 

From what I know and through my eight weeks of talking to hundreds of my 42,000 constituents, I think my polling is much more accurate than what you just listed. It would be the reverse of that. 

Do you think that maybe politicians should not be regulating women's healthcare?

I think that's a viewpoint I'm not saying I agree with, but I can understand that viewpoint.

You've admitted and said that you don't have medical training or experience. Why should you be writing these laws at all? 

We're also not teachers. But we write a policy. I'm not a hunter, but every year I vote on the hunting season. So this rationale gets brought up in every issue that we have. Why are politicians voting on this? So my response on every one of those issues is, well, maybe this is an issue politicians should not vote on. Maybe we don't have the experience necessary to know what the hunting season is. Maybe we don't know what the proper healthcare role for women is. But our system of government is set up to where we're elected, and we generally do what the majority feel is the right direction. I think yesterday's vote kind of showed where the vast majority of South Carolinians are. 

Do you think that this type of legislation makes South Carolina a friendly place for doctors, especially ones who are OB-GYNs and work in family planning and family health? 

I hope so. And I also think, you know, in that question, we assume doctors are against this. And I have a constituent doctor who was very adamant that was in favor of the original bill without exceptions. I have a very, very good dear friend. He's not a constituent but one of my best friends. He's a doctor, and he was for the complete ban. 

What's your message to women in South Carolina who do want to get an abortion now? 

I'm certainly not going to have the correct answer. But my answer is, it will be a case-by-case basis. And I would hope that woman exhausted all efforts of doing everything possible to make the best decision for her. And if she has a family, for her family.

Do you see this issue potentially affecting the midterm races in the way South Carolinians may vote in November?

I don't think it affects South Carolina.

Follow Liz Landers on Twitter.



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Liz Landers, Khareem Sudlow