Lodi News-Sentinel

S. Carolina women who get abortions may face death penalty under proposed bill

- Bristow Marchant, Joseph Bustos and Javon L. Harris COLUMBIA STATE

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Women who get an abortion in South Carolina would be eligible for the death penalty if a proposal at the State House becomes law.

A bill called the South Carolina Pre-Natal Equal Protection Act would “afford equal protection of the laws to all preborn children from the moment of fertilizat­ion,” and reclassify any act that ends a pregnancy as “wilful prenatal homicide.”

Under the bill, an abortion could be punished like any murder, leading to sentences of 30 years in prison up to the death penalty.

The bill explicitly exempts from prosecutio­n a woman who receives an abortion if “she was compelled to do so by the threat of imminent death or great bodily injury.”

The proposal has received wide attention at a time when Republican­led states are debating how far to go in regulating or banning abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that the procedure is no longer subject to federal legal protection­s.

State Rep. Rob Harris, a Spartanbur­g Republican who sponsored the measure, said the bill stems from the Legislatur­e’s need to clarify when life begins.

”We have a problem with abortion, we don’t respect all life,” Harris said. “So, what my bill uniquely does is that it protects all life by defining life at conception. We have to ask ourselves as a culture, whether we believe life begins at conception or not. The ramificati­ons of that are the same for anybody else who would take another life.”

Harris added that the bill’s intent was not to subject a mother who undergoes an abortion to the death penalty, but to save babies.

”The state has become an abortion destinatio­n, so what are we doing to stop abortion?”

When asked about whether the media’s focus on aborting mothers potentiall­y receiving the death penalty weakens his bill or the chances of the bill passing, Harris said, “The laws are already on the books about murder, and all that stuff. I’m not arguing to change any of those laws. The bill is forcing our culture to decide, is this really life inside?”

The bill, introduced in December, has garnered 16 co-sponsors in the House. It currently awaits action by the House Judiciary Committee.

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