South Carolina Considering Death Penalty For Illegal Abortions

South Carolina lawmakers are considering a bill that would make women who get an illegal abortion eligible for the death penalty. The proposed law comes several months after a group of state GOP lawmakers introduced the “South Carolina Prenatal Equal Protection Act of 2023.” That legislation would redefine “person” under state law to include a fertilized egg. This would give fetuses equal protection under the state’s homicide laws, including the death penalty.

The proposed bill includes an exception for women who undergo abortions due to “the threat of imminent death or great bodily injury,” as well as an exception if the procedure is needed to save a mother’s life “when all reasonable alternatives to save the life of the unborn child were attempted or none were available.” However, the bill does not include exceptions for rape or incest, which has been criticized by some GOP lawmakers, including Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), who has taken aim at her party’s restrictive abortion policies.

South Carolina’s Supreme Court has struck down every effort by the Republican state legislature to prohibit abortions in the state since the reversal of Roe v. Wade last summer.
In a 3-2 vote on January 5, a six-week ban was declared unconstitutional by the state’s highest court, which stated that any abortion limitation “must be reasonable and it must afford a woman sufficient time to determine she is pregnant and to take reasonable steps to terminate that pregnancy.”

The court argued that six weeks is not a reasonable period for a woman to make this decision and therefore violates the state’s constitution’s prohibition against unreasonable invasions of privacy.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) has condemned the court’s ruling and laid the groundwork for the currently discussed measures. In a tweet, the Republican governor stated, “Our State Supreme Court has found a right in our Constitution which was never intended by the people of South Carolina. With this opinion, the Court has clearly exceeded its authority.”

The debate surrounding the proposed law has been divisive, with some lawmakers arguing that it is necessary to protect the rights of the unborn child. In contrast, others have criticized the bill’s harsh penalties and lack of exceptions for rape or incest. As a result, the outcome of the South Carolina Prenatal Equal Protection Act of 2023 remains uncertain. Still, it has sparked a heated conversation about reproductive rights and the state’s role in regulating them.