9 Republicans withdraw support for South Carolina anti-abortion bill
Nine South Carolina Republicans who co-sponsored one of the nation’s toughest anti-abortion proposals have since withdrawn their support, reversing a measure that proposed to enforce state homicide laws to people who have an abortion.
The legislation, which had 24 co-sponsors – all Republicans – since its introduction in January, has lost the support of nine of them in recent weeks.
Representatives Kathy Landing and Matt Leber were the first to withdraw their support in late February.
Leber, who was also among the first Republicans to back the measure in January, told NBC News he decided he couldn’t support the bill’s current wording and realized it had no chance of being adopted.
“In its current form, I can’t keep my name on it,” Leber said. “I wouldn’t want to prosecute or indict women at all, that’s never been my philosophy on pro-life issues.”
The bill has been referred to the State House Judiciary Committee, but has not yet been reviewed. Leber said party leaders had made it clear that “the bill was dead on arrival” and would not reach the floor of the House.
“I intended to propose amendments. Clean it up,” he said. “I’m very clear that the current language of this bill is not what I stand for.”
In March, the bill began to get more national attention. And that’s when other supporters started to back down.
Within two weeks of adding his name as a sponsor, Rep. David Vaughan withdrew his support on Monday, along with Reps. Fawn Pedalino, Brian Lawson, Randy Ligon and Patrick Haddon.
In a text message, Vaughan told NBC News that he withdrew his name because he did not believe that a woman who has an abortion should be criminalized, and also that he had “signed this bill by error”.
A day later, Rep. Mark Willis said he would no longer support the bill, and on Thursday, Rep. Brandon Guffey became the latest Republican to remove his name from the bill’s list of sponsors.
In a Facebook post explaining the change, Guffey said, “I’m pro-life but that includes mother’s life.”
In an interview, Guffey said that while he hoped a bill targeting abortion would pass this session so that South Carolina would no longer serve as an “abortion safe haven state,” he could not support the current version.
“My point of view is just that I don’t want abortion to be used as a form of birth control,” Guffey said. “I don’t believe a woman should be murdered for having an abortion.”
Guffey said he didn’t realize the bill included language suggesting a person could face the death penalty for aborting before signing it.
“I read it, but I didn’t click on the code related to the statement that a woman should be sentenced to death,” he said.
The other six lawmakers who withdrew their sponsorship — Pedalino, Landing, Lawson, Ligon, Haddon and Willis — did not respond to requests for comment.
Representative Jordan Pace blasted opposition and media reports that he said had “overstated the death penalty aspect” of the bill, arguing that the likelihood of someone being charged and facing death was “infinitely small”.
“It’s such an absurd mistake,” Pace said in an interview. “A lot of people who make this claim clearly haven’t read the bill.
“I think it is entirely appropriate to protect all people, regardless of size, shape or location, equally before the law,” he added. “So if it can be proven that a person killed another person, on purpose, then that’s by definition homicide, right?”
South Carolina’s Prenatal Equal Protection Act would “ensure that an unborn child victim of homicide receives equal protection under the state’s homicide laws.” The bill identifies a “person” as an “unborn child at all stages of development, from fertilization to birth.”
Under South Carolina law, those convicted of murder can face the death penalty or a minimum of 30 years in prison.
Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, a Republican, said on Twitter that the bill “has no chance of being passed”.
Representative Rob Harris, who introduced the bill, did not respond to a request for comment.
U.S. Representative Nancy Mace, a Republican who has criticized her party for ‘not showing compassion’ on abortion, which she says has made it harder to appeal to the majority of Americans who support him – chastised his state lawmakers for backing the bill.
“It is deeply disturbing to me as a woman and as a rape victim that some in my home country want to give rapists more rights than women who have been raped,” Mace said. tweeted THURSDAY. “And I don’t know why I have to say this, but it’s not pro-life to execute a woman who seeks an abortion after being raped.”
South Carolina, which currently allows most abortions until around 20 weeks of pregnancy, has repeatedly sought to enact tougher laws banning abortion.
The Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act, which banned abortion after six weeks with few exceptions, was signed into law by Governor Henry McMaster, a Republican, in 2021.
In January, the South Carolina Supreme Court struck down that ban, ruling it violated a state’s constitutional right to privacy.
Last month, the South Carolina Senate passed an abortion ban that bans most abortions after about six weeks and says it does not ban contraception.
It also removes a 1974 law criminalizing abortion. This bill states that a woman who has an abortion “cannot be criminally prosecuted” for violating its provisions and is not liable to any civil or criminal penalty arising from the abortion.