Republican lawmakers in South Carolina are considering a bill that would make women who have abortions eligible for the death penalty.
The bill, called the South Carolina Prenatal Equal Protection Act of 2023, seeks to redefine a "person" by including all preborn children from fertilization. This means a fertilized egg at any point of conception would be considered a victim of a homicide and offered equal protection under the homicide laws, including imprisonment for life and the death penalty.
The bill foresees an exception if a mother faces a "threat of imminent death or great bodily injury." Licensed physicians providing care in such instances which result in the death of an unborn child would not be prosecuted, given "all reasonable alternatives to save the life of the unborn child were attempted."
Many states with restrictive abortion laws provide exceptions if a woman’s health and life are in danger. However, women with complicated pregnancies and physicians are trapped in a gray zone because these exceptions are unclear.
Last week, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas on behalf of five women who were denied abortions despite their conditions qualifying under the state’s abortion ban exceptions. The bill also asks for more clarity on when exceptions could be applied.
The South Caroline bill is part of a broader Republican effort to ban abortions, access to which has already been severely limited after overturning Roe v. Wade. Kentucky Republican lawmaker, Emily Callaway, filed House Bill 300 last month, proposing prosecuting illegal abortions as homicides. A similar bill is considered in Arkansas, where GOP lawmakers propose qualifying abortion as a homicide with possible felony charges.
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