South Carolina Lawmaker Defends Bill That Makes the Death Penalty a Possible Punishment for Abortion

exterior of the South Carolina State House
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The proposed amendment would add that a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus at any stage of development is included whenever “person” is referenced in the state’s criminal code.

A new bill proposed in the South Carolina House of Representatives could result in the death penalty for people that have abortions.

South Carolina Republican Representative Rob Harris proposed an amendment to the state's criminal code which would allow individuals that get an abortion to be punished the same as if they were committing a homicide.

The amendment would add that a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus at any stage of development is included whenever “person” is referenced in the criminal code. 

The bill states that if the “victim” is an unborn child then “enforcement is subject to the same presumptions, defenses, justifications, laws of parties, immunities, and clemencies as would apply to the homicide of a person who had been born alive.”

If passed, this means that people who have abortions could be charged with homicide and face the death penalty.

“My bill does not single out women,” Rep. Harris told HuffPost. “It prohibits everyone from committing murder. It provides the same due process that everyone enjoys under our current laws.”  

The bill is titled the South Carolina Prenatal Equal Protection Act of 2023. It gained 23 co-sponsors but since the end of February, some of the members requested to have their name removed from the bill, so now 15 co-sponsors remain. 

Rep. Randy Ligon, one of the representatives that was initially a co-sponsor but later requested to be removed, told HuffPost, “I did not understand that this was included in this bill,” he said. “I do not support capital punishment for women that terminate their pregnancy. I do not stand by this part of the legislation.”

The controversial bill was proposed in January but was referred to a House Judiciary Committee and awaits further action. 

A spokesperson with the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) responded to the Republican-led bill saying “The GOP is rotten to its core, and far too many lawmakers that hold these extreme views are in positions of power.”

“Given the opportunity, these Republican lawmakers would kill a woman for exercising her reproductive freedom,” said DLCC spokesperson Gabrielle Chew. “If it was up to the Republican Party, Americans would have no say over their own bodies and reproductive freedom would be banned across the country.”

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