April 14, 2005
South Carolina House Bill Extends Rights To Unborn
COLUMBIA — The state House on Wednesday approved a bill that its primary sponsor, Rep. Ralph Davenport, says sends a message that South Carolina is a pro-life state.
The bill extends the right to due process and the right to equal protection under the law to unborn children at the moment of fertilization.
“This creates a situation that at conception there is personhood,” said Davenport, R-Boiling Springs. “It gives babies rights that they had not had before in South Carolina.”
Davenport said that abortion is being used as a “tool of convenience.”
“A woman has rights like anybody else,” Davenport said. “When they involve themselves in certain situations and a human being is created, those rights end.”
Kim Forde-Mazrui, an associate professor of law specializing in constitutional law at the University of Virginia, said the bill was lawful, but only to a limited degree.
He said current case law allows states to treat unborn fetuses as human beings as long as it doesn’t interfere with a women’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.
“It would have no force and effect,” Forde-Mazrui said. “Her constitutional right trumps state law.”
Forde-Mazrui said the law would allow the state to prosecute someone for murder if they assaulted a pregnant woman and the fetus died.
House members approved an amendment that would allow a woman who was raped to receive a “morning-after pill” to prevent pregnancy. Davenport said he didn’t attempt to kill the amendment because the bill would receive more votes with it attached.
The House passed the bill by a 95-18 vote.
“This sends a strong message to the Senate that this is a bill they are going to have to deal with,” Davenport said.
Rep. Brenda Lee, D-Spartanburg, Davenport’s longtime deskmate, voted against the bill.
“I’ve always voted against such bills,” Lee said. “I’m adamant about that. Me being a woman, I should have the right to choose.”
Lee said the bill sets the stage for South Carolina to outlaw abortions if Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that upheld a woman’s right to have an abortion, is ever overturned.
Kate Landishaw of Lyman, the South Carolina coordinator for a national effort to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, said the bill is “once again men telling women how to live their lives.”
Becci Robbins, communications director for the Lexington-based South Carolina Progressive Network, agreed.
“If this isn’t government intrusion, I don’t know what is,” she said. “Ironically it’s a Republican-led effort, and Republicans claim to be the party of less government.”
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