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South Carolina Republicans float the death penalty for abortion

GOP lawmakers in South Carolina have proposed giving personhood to fertilized eggs, meaning people who obtain abortions could be charged with homicide.


Across the United States, Republican lawmakers are getting more comfortable with the idea of severe punishment for people who obtain abortions

As with a nationwide abortion ban, implementing cruel and unusual punishment for abortion — the right to which was federally protected until mere months ago — is an idea that has moved from the fringes of the conservative movement into actual policy. (Even some anti-abortion groups are against criminalizing abortion seekers.)

Nonetheless, right-wing depravity on this issue is quite evident in South Carolina, where more than a dozen lawmakers have signed on to a bill that could result in a death sentence for anyone who has an abortion.

The Republicans have signed on to co-sponsor the South Carolina Prenatal Equal Protection Act of 2023, which would categorize fertilized eggs as “people” under state law. The bill doesn’t even have exceptions for rape or incest — a caveat conservatives traditionally trot out to signal empathy as they crusade against abortion. 

The bill’s only exception from prosecution is for people who undergo abortions after being “compelled to do so by the threat of imminent death or great bodily injury.”

And such efforts aren’t confined to South Carolina: In recent years, similar legislation has been introduced in Texas, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arkansas

As Poppy Noor notes for The Guardian, some of the bills “explicitly target medication abortion and self-managed abortion; some look to remove provisions in the law which previously protected pregnant people from criminalization; and others look to establish the fetus as a person from the point of conception.”

Former President Donald Trump bears some responsibility for promoting the idea that people who obtain abortions should be punished. During an MSNBC interview back in 2016, Trump called abortion a “very serious problem” and said “there has to be some form of punishment” for people who undergo abortions.

But he said men who impregnate shouldn’t face punishment for an abortion.

“Different feelings, different people,” Trump said.