Republican policymakers pushing abortion restrictions is not new, but as NBC News reported, GOP legislators in South Carolina continue to push existing boundaries in radical directions.
South Carolina Republicans are pushing legislation that would make a person who undergoes an abortion subject to the state’s homicide laws, which include the death penalty. The South Carolina Prenatal Equal Protection Act would “ensure that an unborn child who is a victim of homicide is afforded equal protection under the homicide laws of the state.” The bill would define a “person” as an “unborn child at every stage of development from fertilization until birth.”
There’s no shortage of problems with a proposal like this one, but there’s one glaring issue that tops the list: In South Carolina, convicted murderers can face the death penalty.
In other words, if the South Carolina Prenatal Equal Protection Act were to become law, and a woman terminated an unwanted or dangerous pregnancy, she could face possible execution at the hands of her state government.
What’s more, as my MSNBC colleague Ja’han Jones explained, this bill “doesn’t even have exceptions for rape or incest — a caveat conservatives traditionally trot out to signal empathy as they crusade against abortion.”
It’s difficult to say with confidence whether a proposal like this one might actually pass. It has more than a dozen co-sponsors, so it’s not just some random bill that’s gone completely ignored in the state capitol, but there’s no companion bill in the state Senate, and Henry McMaster, South Carolina’s Republican governor, hasn’t yet thrown his backing behind the measure.
That said, the fact that such a proposal exists serves as a timely reminder of just how far some GOP officials will go as part of their agenda to curtail reproductive rights.
It’s also effectively the opposite of the message many Republicans want voters to hear.
After Justice Samuel Alito’s draft ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was leaked last May, and Americans started coming to terms with the fact that the Supreme Court’s GOP-appointed majority would soon overturn Roe v. Wade, the National Republican Senatorial Committee quickly distributed talking points to the party’s incumbents and candidates.
As regular readers may recall, the rhetorical suggestions were defensive, not celebratory. Party leaders seemed to realize that most of the country wanted to leave the Roe precedent intact, so the National Republican Senatorial Committee advised incumbents and candidates to tell voters, among other things, “Republicans DO NOT want to throw doctors and women in jail.”
It was an acknowledgement from GOP leaders that the American mainstream was repulsed by the idea of criminal prosecutions of physicians and women who feel the need to terminate unwanted or dangerous pregnancies.
Ten months after the NRSC released the memo, there are too many examples of Republicans pushing anti-abortion measures that would target doctors with possible criminal charges, as well as bills such as the South Carolina Prenatal Equal Protection Act that wouldn’t just make women subject to prison sentences — it might also lead to their state-sanctioned executions.
When the National Republican Senatorial Committee said, “Republicans DO NOT want to throw doctors and women in jail,” the party apparently forgot that many Republicans want to do exactly that.