South Carolina senator reintroduces abortion ban bill

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina senator has reintroduced legislation that would ban abortions in the state and possibly criminalize the act.

Nearly 100 people gathered Wednesday in the Statehouse for an anti-abortion event calling on lawmakers to pass “personhood” legislation, which would stipulate that life begins at conception and grant the unborn at that moment all rights as any other citizen.

Republican Sen. Richard Cash of Powdersville said that this year’s version of the bill ties the matter to South Carolina’s criminal code. If approved, the legislation would allow the possibility for prosecutors to pursue a criminal case against individuals who willfully perform abortions.

“We’re not saying right now today we’re advocating some sheriff go arrest a doctor,” Cash said. But he added that if the bill is upheld in its current version, “if you’re a doctor and abortions have been re-criminalized and you kill a baby, well you’ve just committed murder.”

Gov. Henry McMaster stood alongside Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette and told the pro-life crowd that he originally supported the Personhood Act first introduced by then Sen. Kevin Bryant in 2017 and would reaffirm his commitment to the proposal.

“We must stand tall, stand together in what we believe,” McMaster said. “You send me that clear, concise personhood bill and I will sign it tomorrow.”

Last year, a bill to ban nearly all abortions except for cases of rape, incest and risk to the mother’s life failed in the Senate after an hourslong filibuster. Democratic Sen. Gerald Malloy of Hartsville called the bill nearsighted and said the General Assembly has more pressing issues such as education, health care and other budgetary needs that require their attention.

“This bill obviously has some unintended consequences that would penalize medical providers in a greater extent than one would think,” said Malloy who was instrumental in orchestrating last year’s filibuster. “It was only just last session that there was a resounding defeat. I understand this is a new legislative session, but I think that this single issue by the senator is something that should be subordinate to (the) real needs of our state.”

The bill currently has five Republican co-sponsors and has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.