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Strom Thurmond is smiling 

South Carolina goes ultrasonic

In South Carolina, lawmakers think women who need an abortion don't have enough problems. Simply because many women go through emotional and mental agony when deciding whether to abort a pregnancy, that doesn't mean the state government can't pile on more and make it worse.

South Carolina, like some other states, already requires that a woman who chooses to have an abortion sit still for an "alternatives to abortion" song and dance by her doctor, then has to wait at least an hour to "consider the information" prior to the procedure. Soon, my home state may be the only one to also mandate that a woman who has an abortion must see an ultrasound image of the fetus beforehand (the price of the ultrasound would, of course, be added to the woman's bill).

Last week's House vote on the measure made it clear, in case anyone didn't realize it, that Christian fundamentalists hold South Carolina's state government in a death-grip. The bill was ram-rodded through the House by legislators beholden to the Palmetto Family Council, the S.C. affiliate of Rev. James Dobson's Focus On The Family. PFC president Oran Smith said the bill was needed in order to reduce the number of abortions in the state and put a benign spin on the legislation, claiming that women need "as much background as possible when they're making decisions." Smith didn't add that the women also need to be reminded they're evil tarts flouting the wishes of Our Lord and Savior, but then he didn't really need to. Everybody knows where he's coming from.

Gov. Mark Sanford, whom some religious conservatives are urging to run for president, fully supported the bill. The legislation's chief sponsor, Rep. Greg Delleney, R-Chester, reveled in the fundamentalists' victory, proudly claiming, "Many of the pro-life groups contacted people around the state, and ... hundreds, if not thousands, were praying for it." Dobson & Co.'s presence was so strong in the S.C. House, the members even turned away amendments that would have exempted victims of rape or incest from the ultrasound show.

It's not exactly a shock that South Carolina would come up with a whole new, unique way to be a pain in the neck. It's in their blood, believe me. Historically, the so-called leadership of the state has, for the most part, prided itself on being "contrary" and spiteful. Remember, this was the state that was thrilled to be the first to secede from the Union. And re-elected racist lecher Strom Thurmond to the U.S. Senate over and over and over. And fought like hell before finally taking the Confederate flag down from the statehouse dome. And "controlled" drinking in restaurants by serving liquor in mini-bottles, which contained twice as much booze as someone would have gotten in a regular drink.

The sad fact is that I can't remember when "leaders" of South Carolina, with precious few exceptions, haven't been more interested in thumping Bibles and condemning others' sins than in improving the lives of citizens. Where do you think those jokes about kids in South Carolina learning reading and arithmetic from the Hardee's drive-thru menu came from? When I was growing up there, national studies always showed South Carolina trailing every state but Mississippi in education, health and per capita income. Our consistent next-to-last place even inspired high school jokers to claim that the state motto was "Thank God for Mississippi." In that context, the new "ultrasound initiative" shouldn't be surprising.

But, hey, that's S.C. politicians for you. It's just how they are. In the spirit of compromise, I think Democrats in Columbia should come up with other bills to help give people of all stripes "as much background as possible when they're making decisions." Here are some suggestions for new legislation.

• Politicians voting to curtail abortions must first see films of women who've been killed by pre-Roe v. Wade back alley abortions, as well as a documentary about the plight of unwanted children.

• Couples who decide to have a child must see photos of parents paying for diapers, clothes, food, daycare, more clothes, summer camps, more food, laptop computers, prom gowns and college tuition.

But why stop with birth-related issues? If S.C. lawmakers can butt into pregnant women's business, why not interfere in other people's lives, too? Here are some ideas they might like:

• Citizens buying eyeglasses will need to watch a film of people poking themselves in the eye with the glasses' stem.

• Before buying cigarettes, customers must be shown pictures of an old guy walking around with a portable oxygen tank on wheels.

• All liquor store customers must watch a 30-minute montage of violent car crashes.

And finally,

• Patients having a colonoscopy must take a close look at photos of a variety of assholes, starting with S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford, state representative Greg Delleney and the Rev. James Dobson.

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