We all need to look very carefully at what’s happening in South Carolina– because a bill being proposed will be called a pro-life bill, and it could get people killed.
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.”
Under South Carolina law, people convicted of murder can face the death penalty or a minimum of 30 years in prison.
How is this going to play out?
Can you imagine the chaos?
Is every grieving mother who miscarries going to be put under the same scrutiny as parents whose infant children die under mysterious circumstances? Is that the world you want to live in? Is every fetal death really going to be treated like a homicide? What would that even look like?
If you’re at high risk for miscarriage and you test positive for pregnancy in a state where homicide laws are applied to abortions, are you going to hurry to get medical care knowing there’d be a record of your pregnancy somewhere? Or are you going to hope it goes away so you don’t end up in prison for thirty years if anything goes wrong and you get blamed? Is that pro-life? If you’re pregnant in a state where homicide laws apply to abortion and you start to bleed, are you going to run to the hospital to get help? Or are you going to hide it so you won’t get investigated for murder? Is that pro-life? If you’re a domestic violence victim and your partner causes a miscarriage, you’ve got one more reason not to tell anyone. Is that pro-life? Is it pro-life that an incest victim who gets strongarmed into a back alley abortion by her family to cover their tracks, would have to prove she’s not an accessory to murder if she told someone what happened to her?
When you say that the state can treat the death of a seven-week fetus like the death of someone who’s already been born, you’re saying that the state gets to decide which fetal deaths they’re going to make their business, and unborn babies die all the time. Between ten and twenty percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage naturally. When you get to be my age, it’s more like forty percent. The unexpected sudden death of born babies is nothing like that. This would be a dystopia.
What do you think is going to happen in this dystopia?
Whatever it is, it’s going to happen to black and brown women, women with drug addiction, women with a criminal record who the prosecutor doesn’t like. Wealthy women, white women, are still going to be able to quietly dispose of unwanted pregnancies, just as they did before Roe. But anyone the police or a prosecutor want to make an example of is going to suffer.
Is that what you want?
Because when I was growing up, I was told that the pro-life movement is “pro-woman, pro-child, pro-life.” But quite frankly, I don’t see any pro-woman going on. I don’t really see pro-child either, because children get pregnant. I certainly don’t see “pro-life” if you want to kill people.
This has nothing to do with whether abortion is wrong. And in spite of the atrocious behavior of the pro-life movement that I’ve been writing against for so long, I still don’t see how it could be right. But I don’t want to hurt people who get abortions. I’ve never wanted to hurt anyone. That’s why I called myself pro-life, back when I thought the pro-life movement was being honest. But it turns out that the pro-life movement really isn’t about preventing hurting people. I’ve lost any hope that the pro-life movement really wanted to help mothers in crisis and safeguard babies. Since the Dobbs decision, the masks have dropped and we see them for what they really are, in case anyone couldn’t before. At their heart, they’re just bullies. They’ve been a confidence game all along. What they really want to do is control people.
And they have nothing to do with safeguarding life.
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.