The Republicans who want to sentence women to death for abortion

South Carolina representative Rob Harris’s bill has so far attracted 21 co-sponsors

Maroosha Muzaffar
Tuesday 14 March 2023 11:57 GMT
Related: Colorado lawmaker compares US abortion policy to Genghis Khan massacres

In South Carolina, Republican lawmakers are contemplating making a change to the state’s criminal code that would punish a person who gets an abortion with the death penalty.

The bill, called the South Carolina Prenatal Equal Protection Act of 2023, would amend the state’s code of laws, redefining “person” to include a fertilised egg at the point of conception, affording that zygote “equal protection under the homicide laws of the state” – up to and including the death penalty.

Representative Rob Harris wrote the bill and so far it has attracted 21 co-sponsors to date.

The bill, however, provides an exception for pregnant women who underwent abortion “because she was compelled to do so by the threat of imminent death or great bodily injury”.

It also provides an exception if the procedure is needed to avert the death of a mother “when all reasonable alternatives to save the life of the unborn child were attempted or none were available”.

Abortion is currently legal in South Carolina up to 21 weeks and 6 days; a 2021 ban outlawing abortion at six weeks was struck down by the state’s Supreme Court in January.

In addition, the proposed bill does not provide an exception for rape or incest. Representative Nancy Mace of South Carolina said on the House floor last week that “to see this debate go to the dark places, the dark edges, where it has gone on both sides of the aisle, has been deeply disturbing to me as a woman, as a female legislator, as a mom, and as a victim of rape”.

She continued: “I was raped as a teenager at the age of 16. This debate ought to be a bipartisan debate where we balance the rights of women and we balance the right to life. But we aren’t having that conversation here in DC. We aren’t having that conversation at home. We aren’t having that conversation with fellow state lawmakers.”

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