GOP senator aims to limit abortions

DOVER — With the 46th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision serving as a backdrop, Sen. Bryant Richardson announced Tuesday he will re-introduce a bill to prohibit abortion after 20 weeks of a woman’s pregnancy.

Another bill he is sponsoring will allow women to get an ultrasound before making a decision to get an abortion.

Sen. Richardson, R-Laurel, who represents the 21st District, made his announcement in the Senate chamber at Legislative Hall before members of Delaware Right to Life and the Faith & Freedom Coalition of Delaware, who hosted a Rally for Life on the cold Tuesday afternoon.

“(Tuesday was) the 46th anniversary of the Roe versus Wade decision,” Sen. Richardson said. “This is a day when we mourn more than 60 million babies that have been deprived of life since 1973.

“I wonder each day how many more innocent lives will be lost until we as a nation come to our senses?

“Last week I started circulating two bills for co-sponsorship and I will be releasing them at the end of this week — the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the Women’s Ultrasound Right to Know Act.”

Sen. Bryant Richardson

Sen. Richardson introduced the same bills last May but they failed to clear the Senate and never reached the House of Representatives. Both chambers were, and are, controlled by the Democrats.

This time around he has the backing of Rep. Richard Collins (R), a Millsboro resident who represents the 41st District in the House, along with several other sponsors.

Rep. Collins said he will be introducing the bills to the House this time so that his cohorts have a chance to debate it.

“This bill went into a Senate committee, it got a hearing, and there the bill was debated but it was never passed in the Senate and that means that it never came to the House and nobody on our side of the aisle had to even think about it,” Rep. Collins said. “Most of us probably didn’t even know it existed.

“So, after listening to my pastor last Sunday who said in the clearest possible terms, ‘God expects us to do right, politically convenient or not, and we will be held accountable,’ I decided that we have to be sure that our House members had a chance to debate this.”

There were no visible clashes among supporters and opponents on Tuesday after what Sen. Richardson originally scheduled as an announcement on the steps of Legislative Hall was moved indoors due to the cold weather conditions, allowing for a more confined environment and a partisan pro-life crowd.

Moira Sheridan, the president of Delaware Right to Life, said her organization will never give up.

“We think of ourselves as outnumbered, we’re invisible, we’re far outside the mainstream, so we must be pro-life,” Ms. Sheridan said.

“For 46 years though, we keep coming back. We keep marching, we keep rallying and reminding the world that they’re forgetting someone – the tiny, beautiful human life in the womb who depends on us to be their voice.

“(Tuesday) Sen. Richardson and all these wonderful sponsors made an important first volley in the battle for real human rights in Delaware. We are here to support him and his legislature. We’re also here to not just listen, but to act.

“If we feel like David versus Goliath in abortion-friendly Delaware, just remember who won that fight.”

Sen. Richardson said that while he will release the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and the Women’s Ultrasound Right to Know Act later this week, he believes the second one will have a greater chance at getting passed.

“The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act hopes to save the lives of children at 20 weeks of gestation,” he said. “This is well into the second trimester when the unborn can feel pain. Two forms of abortion are performed at this stage of development – by dismemberment and by injection of a saline solution in which the baby is not only poisoned, but the outer layer of skin is burned off. In very rare cases babies have survived this form of abortion.”

Last May, Sen. Bryan Townsend, a Newark Democrat who sponsored the legislation codifying legal abortion in 2017, said the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act “unreasonably” limits an important right and goes against what the majority of Delawareans want.

“I think when it comes to women’s reproductive health and reproductive choices, our laws and policies should be based on medical science and the Constitution,” he said. He added he is unaware of any evidence fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks.

Delaware currently allows abortion up to viability, defined as “the point in a pregnancy when, in a physician’s good faith medical judgment based on the factors of a patient’s case, there is a reasonable likelihood of the fetus’s sustained survival outside the uterus without the application of extraordinary medical measures.”

Almost 2,600 abortions were conducted in Delaware in 2013, according to the Division of Public Health.

Seventeen states specifically forbid abortion after 20 weeks, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Sen. Richardson went on to say the Women’s Ultrasound Right to Know Act provides women the chance to listen to the heartbeat which he said is a method that has been shown to save almost four out of five babies whose mothers had previously decided to have an abortion.

“(An ultrasound) gives a woman the information they need to make an informed decision about whether or not to have an abortion,” he said.

Bobbi Ives, a Dover resident among the Pro-Life movement, was among the 100 or so people who packed the Senate chamber to listen to the announcements on Tuesday.

“It’s awesome, but as long as we’re the minority it’s going to be a tough row to hoe,” Ms. Ives said. “Baby steps are fine. I’m all for the ultrasound. I think if more mothers saw the life that’s within it would change their mind. But how are we killing them all through nine months? It’s appalling.”

According to a 2017 Pew Research Center poll, 65 percent of Republicans believe abortion should be mostly or completely illegal, while 75 percent of Democrats say it should be legal in most or all circumstances.

Sen. Richardson said the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday helped him realize he is fighting the good fight.

“Dr. King criticized those who are dedicated to the maintenance of the status quo instead of opposing unjust laws, which he said is ‘Any law that is out of harmony with the moral law,’” said Sen. Richardson.

“With those words in mind, my hope is that more people will step into the political arena to help stop the injustice against the most vulnerable members of our society – the unborn.”

Rep. Collins noted that there are a lot of new faces in the legislature this year after last year’s November elections. He said that gives him hope for a change in heart.

“Hearts get hard after a while,” he said. “We all get on our ‘team.’ You just want your ‘team’ to win. Who knows? With all of these new people (in legislature) maybe God will make a miracle happen.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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