(NaturalNews) A proposed "Stand Your Ground" measure in South Carolina would convey constitutional rights upon unborn children at the moment of conception, permitting a mother to use lethal force against anyone threatening her fetus.
As reported by Courthouse News, the South Carolina Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure in early May. The bill, called the "Pregnant Women's Protection Act," defines an "unborn child" as "the offspring of human beings from conception until birth."
Under the state's current law, individuals may use deadly force to protect themselves against the threat of "imminent peril of death or great bodily injury."
Supporters of the bill say that, without it, pregnant women could face attacks that could cause them to miscarry but that might otherwise not justify the use of deadly force. The bill, which was sponsored by state Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, was debated at the same time as a pair of other measures aimed at granting personhood to embryos.
Opponents see as a challenge to abortion
Opponents of the bill, which include organizations that provide women's health services and abortions, say they are concerned it would take away a woman's access to birth control, in vitro fertilization, emergency contraception and other services.
"It could outlaw contraception, any form of hormonal birth control, and emergency contraception that is usually given to victims of rape," Emma Davidson, a spokeswoman for the New Morning Foundation, told Courthouse News. "It would also have implications for in-vitro fertilization, which involves being able to work in the time frame that this bill would impact. It would make it financially unrealistic for any clinic to practice it in that time frame."
The foundation, which is based in Columbia, bills itself as a nonprofit organization working for young people's reproductive health education, counseling and other clinical services throughout the state.
"No one disputes that violence against pregnant women is a concern in our state, and few would deny the need for swift action to stop any instances of further violence," Davidson said. "But it is hypocritical to introduce legislation claiming to protect victims of domestic abuse, rape and violence while simultaneously outlawing emergency contraception, a key treatment option for those victims."
She said "personhood" bills are introduced every year in South Carolina, but so far none of them have been passed into law.
"These bills like to define a human being as a 'person' at fertilization, which would create a variety of restrictions that would limit the reproductive and family building choices of hundreds of thousands of South Carolina residents," Dr. Michael Slowey, a reproductive endocrinologist and founder of Coastal Fertility Specialists in Mount Pleasant, told the legal news service. "Specifically, these bills would put an end to our ability to perform in-vitro fertilization, provide contraception and effectively treat abnormal pregnancies, including life-threatening ectopic pregnancies."
University of South Carolina law professor Marcia Zug testified during the Senate hearing on a companion measure that offered similar language on life being defined as beginning at conception. She said while the measure "is not a direct challenge to abortion," it may nonetheless garner "a lot of support from people who are hoping it would challenge it."
'Women don't know when they conceive'
"We would have for the first time a law that specifically defines pregnancy and life as beginning at conception, and that is very important language for people who want to ban abortion - which would then be equated with murder," Zug said.
The pair of additional measures that would grant human embryos the same rights as fully developed humans did not make it before the Senate panel before adjournment. Zug said none of the measures were needed, and that all had ulterior motives.
"This bill is unnecessary for any reason other than to challenge the legality of abortion," Zug said. "South Carolina already has a very robust Stand Your Ground law. There was the argument that there is a possibility that a woman could be defending her unborn child but not her own life. Most attacks that would harm a fetus would be [dangerous] enough to harm a woman and she would be able to use current protections.
"Women don't know when they conceive," she added. "There is a period there when a woman doesn't know she's pregnant, so she wouldn't be able to use the new protections in that period of time."