Our view

Two bills would ban abortions

April 16, 2014 

  • In summary

    Bills would give fertilized eggs the same legal rights as fully developed people.

South Carolina abortion foes who would have no chance of passing a bill to ban abortion outright instead are pushing bills in the state Senate that would achieve that goal by giving fertilized eggs legal rights at conception. We hope sensible lawmakers will reject this tactic.

Of two bills considered by a Senate panel last week, the so-called “Personhood Act” is the most straightforward. By defining life as starting with conception, the personhood bill would also outlaw abortion.

But because of the broad implications of giving a fertilized egg the same rights as a fully developed person, the bill also would, in all likelihood, outlaw many types of contraception, stem cell research and fertility treatments. It also would raise the possibility that women who have a miscarriage or stillbirth could be criminally prosecuted.

Are we ready to begin policing pregnant women to ensure that they do nothing to endanger their fetuses, such as smoking, drinking, exercising too hard or eating unhealthy foods? The possibility of prosecuting women for such acts is frightening.

The “Pregnant Women’s Protection Act” is a bit stealthier but perhaps even scarier. The bill purports to give pregnant women the right to use deadly force to defend their unborn children from any threat, but, in reality, it is just another “personhood” bill.

The bill would make it justifiable homicide to kill someone in any location in defense of a fetus. But the state’s “stand your ground” law already allows any woman to use deadly force in self-defense whether she is in her home or anywhere else, which makes the “Pregnant Women’s Protection Act” superfluous.

The real intention of the bill is found in language that defines an unborn child as “the offspring of human beings from conception until birth.” This bill, like the “Personhood Act,” also could outlaw any act that might harm the fertilized egg.

But another possibility is even more insidious. South Carolina’s “stand your ground” law allows not only the people being attacked to defend themselves, but also allows others to use deadly force in the defense of possible victims.

Ostensibly, that means an irate husband, a parent, a sibling or even a bystander might shoot someone who attempts to harm a fetus – including abortion providers, stem cell researchers or pharmacists who prescribe birth control pills. The bill, in effect, could declare open season on abortion doctors, even if the pregnant woman herself had sought an abortion.

That might seem unlikely, but reasonable people need to consider the potential legal entanglements of these bills before blithely appeasing the abortion foes. Let’s not unintentionally return to the days when most contraception was illegal and back-alley abortions were common.

Roe v. Wade is long established law. While many Americans might consider limiting access to abortion in some ways, a majority still supports a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, especially when the pregnancy results from rape or incest, or when the woman’s life is in danger.

State lawmakers should resist attempts to ban abortion – either through the front door or the back door.

For the record

In Monday’s editorial, “County, museum group finally reach a deal,” we wrote that in a final settlement offer to head off a lawsuit, the York County Culture and Heritage Foundation agreed to submit to an audit. In fact, that was part of an earlier offer. While it was still on the table, it was not officially part of the final settlement offer.

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