“PREGNANT WOMEN’S PROTECTION ACT” PASSES STATE SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE
By Amy Lazenby || Some South Carolina lawmakers are continuing to push back-door efforts to establish a precedent for banning abortion and other reproductive services in the Palmetto State, even though women’s right to such services was established in the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade. I have written previously about two so-called “Personhood Acts” introduced by state senators. Proponents of this type of legislation believe that the the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution reserves to the states the right to decide when life begins. Supporters equate personhood with civil rights and believe that a fertilized egg, acted upon in any way, is being denied due process of law.
Personhood bills give constitutional rights to embryos from the moment of conception, well before a pregnancy has even taken place. “Personhood” legislation is so broad it would outlaw emergency contraception (even for victims of rape and incest), hormonal birth control pills, and other methods of birth control because they can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. These bills would also ban in-vitro fertilization since fertilized eggs used in these processes would have full legal rights. If passed, this proposed legislation would impact literally thousands of laws ranging from when property rights are granted, to inheritance rights, to who can file a lawsuit.
This week, the a State Senate Judiciary Subcommittee heard more testimony on the Personhood Act companion bills (S.83 and S.457), as well as on the so-called “Pregnant Women’s Protection Act.” This latest bill (S.527) amends South Carolina’s current “stand your ground: self-defense law to include protections for unborn children. Written by Americans United for Life (AUL), a national anti-choice group, the proposed law includes language that defines an “unborn child” as “the offspring of human beings from conception until birth.” In its legislation template, AUL itself says, this “new law extends both legal recognition and legal protection to an unborn child,” illustrating that this bill, presented as a stand your ground law for pregnant women, is actually intended to erode women’s access to essential reproductive health services.
Current state statute already allows for the use of deadly force to protect oneself and others against the threat of “imminent peril of death or great bodily injury,” making an additional law specifically tailored to pregnant women unnecessary. Those women may already legally defend themselves. The only new provision this law adds to state statute is the definition of a fertilized egg as a person with full legal rights. Thus, it is a back-door effort to pass the unconstitutional concept of personhood into law by including it in a self-defense bill.
While the Personhood Act companion bills were not voted on at the hearing, the subcommittee did vote 3-2 to pass the Pregnant Women’s Protection Act on to the full Senate Judiciary Committee. Senators Chip Campsen (R-Charleston), Greg Hembree (R-Horry), and Greg Gregory (R-Lancaster) voted for the bill, while Senators Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg) and Karl Allen (D-Greenville) voted against it.
By writing the concept of personhood for a fertilized egg into any law, legislators are treating women as less than adults capable of making their own healthcare decisions and are denying them access to methods of personal medical management that they have relied upon for decades. It is my hope that the full Senate Judiciary Committee will see this underhanded attempt to deny women established reproductive rights for what it is – not a self-defense law – and vote it down.