There is a bill in the South Carolina State Senate that, if passed, would allow pregnant women to use lethal force to defend their unborn fetuses against attack.
But the controversy over the proposed law is not so much that it extends the “stand your ground” law to include unborn babies but, by doing so, it effectively grants full constitutional rights to unborn fetuses from the moment of conception.
The South Carolina Senate Judiciary Subcommittee voted 3-2 in support of the bill on April 10, moving it along to the Judiciary Committee where it is currently awaiting a vote.
“A pregnant woman is justified in using physical force or deadly physical force against another person to protect her unborn child,” the Pregnant Women's Protection Act states. “‘Unborn child' means the offspring of human beings from conception until birth."
'This could outlaw all types of hormonal birth control and fertility treatments in South Carolina.'
It is the second half that critics of the bill object to. They argue that this “personhood” language could negatively impact women’s ability to access contraception, abortions, and other basic healthcare options — especially as stand your ground laws, that establish the right of the individual (including pregnant women) to use force in self-defense, are already on the books in South Carolina.
The New Morning Foundation is a South Carolina reproductive health and women’s rights organization that is opposed to the bill for this reason.
“Stand your ground laws already exists in South Carolina, so the only reason for this bill would be to redefine an unborn child as starting at conception,” Emma Davidson, a spokesperson for the New Morning Foundation, told VICE News. “This could outlaw all types of hormonal birth control and fertility treatments in South Carolina.”
Supporters of the bill, including its sponsor State Senator Katrina Shealy, maintain that it is simply aimed at protecting pregnant women from attacks and has nothing to do with the personhood debate.
This is not the first time a bill aimed at defining human life at conception has entered the South Carolina legislature. The Pregnant Women's Protection Act, which was first introduced on March 13, is the sixth personhood bill to be introduced in the state this year alone. The deadline for passing the bill is May 1.
“This is the sixteenth year in a row a personhood bill has been brought to the South Carolina legislature,” said Davidson. “It has failed to pass every time and we don’t see it succeeding this time either.”
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