South Carolina Committee Passes Bill to Define Unborn Baby as a Person and Ban Abortions

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Feb 20, 2018   |   10:20PM   |   Columbia, SC

South Carolina lawmakers moved forward Tuesday with a controversial bill to ban all abortions in the state.

The bill, nicknamed the “Personhood Act,” would require the state to recognize and grant legal protections to every human life, beginning at the moment of conception. It includes exceptions for medical emergencies when the mother’s life is in jeopardy, as well as in vitro fertilization.

The State reports the bill passed a state Senate committee Tuesday in a 12-9 vote after a lengthy debate. It now moves to the full state Senate for consideration.

State Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant sponsored the bill while he was a state senator, and Gov. Henry McMaster said he will sign the legislation if it reaches his desk, according to the report.

Approximately 6,000 unborn babies are aborted in South Carolina every year, the report states.

State Sen. Richard Cash, R-Anderson, said they hope the bill will overturn Roe v. Wade and end legalized abortion in the U.S.

“We are trying to challenge the Supreme Court on their fundamental error that a human being is not a person,” Cash said. “A human being is a person.”

The legislature considered a similar bill in 2017. At the time, a South Carolina Planned Parenthood spokesperson threatened to challenge the legislation in court if it became law.

Abortion groups have succeeded in overturning similar laws in court. In 2012, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a similar personhood bill as unconstitutional because it recognized unborn babies as human beings who deserve the right to life.

Personhood legislation, even if upheld in court, may not make abortions illegal. When considering a Missouri statute in 1989, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist ruled that the personhood statute was nothing more than a statement of position that had no bearing on banning abortions or even limiting them in any way.

The state of Missouri had approved a statute saying, “the life of each human being begins at conception” and “unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and well-being.” The statute required that all Missouri state laws be interpreted to provide unborn children with rights equal to those enjoyed by other persons.

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The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri struck down that provision and the abortion limits, and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that it violated Roe.

The Supreme Court then ruled that it did not need to consider the constitutionality of the law’s preamble, defining personhood at conception, as it could not be used to support any abortion laws that conflicted with Roe. Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote the decision and Justice Anthony Kennedy joined in the opinion. Ultimately, the Supreme Court upheld the personhood language Missouri used decades ago but did not allow it to ban — or even limit — any abortions.

Therefore, most pro-life groups believe one of the keys to ending legalized abortion is overturning Roe v. Wade. The current Supreme Court justices are highly unlikely to do so, with conservative-leaning justices holding four of the nine seats.

President Donald Trump promised to nominate “pro-life” justices to the high court, but he would have to nominate and the Senate would have to confirm several before there is a chance of Roe v. Wade being overturned.