WASHINGTON — South Carolina Republicans are pushing legislation that would make a person who undergoes an abortion subject to the state’s homicide laws, which include the death penalty.
The South Carolina Prenatal Equal Protection Act would “ensure that an unborn child who is a victim of homicide is afforded equal protection under the homicide laws of the state.” The bill would define a “person” as an “unborn child at every stage of development from fertilization until birth.”
Under South Carolina law, people convicted of murder can face the death penalty or a minimum of 30 years in prison.
The bill provides some exceptions, including if the mother had an abortion “because she was compelled to do so by the threat of imminent death or great bodily injury.” It also provides an exception if a licensed physician performs the abortion to prevent the death of a pregnant woman but “results in the accidental or unintentional injury or death of her unborn child when all reasonable alternatives to save the life of the unborn child were attempted or none were available.”
The measure, whose lead sponsor is state Rep. Rob Harris, doesn’t include any exceptions for rape or incest. Before serving in the Legislature, Harris worked as a registered nurse for nearly three decades, according to his campaign website.
Republicans in South Carolina’s House introduced the legislation in January, and it was referred to the state’s House Judiciary Committee, which hasn’t considered it yet. More than a dozen Republican lawmakers are listed as sponsors of the bill.
The GOP holds the majority in South Carolina’s House and Senate. A similar bill has not been introduced in the upper chamber. Republican Henry McMaster is as the state’s governor.
While the South Carolina House hasn’t yet acted on the measure, it has received significant attention as other states impose further restrictions related to abortions. A Texas judge is holding a hearing Wednesday in a lawsuit that challenges the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, one of two medications that can be used to terminate a pregnancy.