SC Statehouse Bills on Personhood in Committee

The Bill

  1. H 3530: Personhood Act of South Carolina
  2. S 217

Context

The South Carolina statehouse–both senate and the house of representatives–have nearly identical bills on personhood definition that have been referred to the judiciary committee for evaluation of vitality. The language used in them is enough to raise objection, as well as the fact that they are probably unconstitutional.

The bill seeks to amend the 1976 Code of South Carolina laws to enact the “Personhood act of South Carolina,” which establishes “that the right to life for each born and preborn human being vests at fertilization, and that the rights of due process and equal protection, guaranteed by section 3, article I of the constitution of this state, vest at fertilization for each born and preborn human being.”

Discussion

My personal position on abortion is this: I support you if you are “pro-life,” as devicisve a term that is, but I don’t think it should preclude what I see as my constitionally conservative view that the government doesn’t have a right or reason to legislate the conditions of medical intervention of s voluntary procedure. Tl;dr: if you don’t support abortion, don’t get one, and don’t push your views, experiences, and access privilege on others in the form of legislation. Instead I think a good outlet for that energy would be to extend your compassion for “preborn humans” to the women making difficult decisions or women with children they weren’t prepared for and need a helping hand or loving hug.

BACK TO BUSINESS

There are two remarkable things about this legislation. One is the phrase “preborn human” used to avoid the medical term of fetus. As a gentle reminder, the medical community has already empirically defined “personhood,” or when the organism is referred to as a baby instead of a fetus: it is when it can survive outside of the womb. I’ve never had a baby, but I’m at least 80% sure that a zygote can’t thrive outside the womb. Maybe I’m wrong.
The other, really, truly remarkable part of the bill is their justification: God and country. Beginning with the Declaration of Independence, the drafters then present the following “regarding the sanctity of life”:

(2)    All persons are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.

(3)    Personhood is God-given, as all men are created in the image of God.

(4)    The Preamble to the Constitution of the State of South Carolina contains the sovereign peoples’ acknowledgment of God as the source of constitutional liberty saying: ‘We the people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, grateful to God for our liberties, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the preservation and perpetuation of the same.’

Let that sink in for a moment. We have separation of church and state as well as religious freedom written into our laws, not to mention the rights protected in Roe V. Wade. This bill seeks to codify the unprovable actions of an indefinite, subjective being.

And if we are to take the bill literally, which in my opinion we ought to, otherwise what is even the point of laws?, then the third point would put into law that only men are created in the image of God, and thus it could be argued that the rights protected in this bill are not extended to any “preborn human” (or other groups who currently do not have the same protections), who is assigned female the second they exit the womb.

Finally, this could effectively ban abortion in South Carolina, because one of the rights of personhood as outlined in the bill is “that no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.”

Action

As of this writing, a vote has not been ordered in either chamber nor is it on the judiciary docket for either chamber. Contact your state representatives (senate and house) if you want to object to the legislation. Click here to find them.  If you live in Park Circle, your reps are:

Senator Lawrence K. “Larry” Grooms
(803) 212-6400
click here to send him a message.

Representative J. Seth Whipper
(803) 734-3191
click here to send him a message.

Here is contact information for the respective judiciary committees and links to see all members:

Senate Judiciary Committee — (803)212-6610

House Judiciary Committee — (803)734-3120

Suggested script:

 In regards to points subsections 2, 3, and 4 of section 1-1-320 in H. 3530 and subsection B, C, and D of section 1-1-320 of S. 217, I oppose both bills on the following grounds:

Both bills, in defining personhood through a religious deity, violate a citizen’s right to freedom of religion and the premise of separation of church and state.

The ban on abortion that this measure would create is unconstitutional, as it violates Roe V. Wade and favors the life of an unviable fetus over that of the mother. Abortion is already limited to 20 weeks, which is problematic enough as it is possible, depending on the regularity of one’s menstrual cycle, to not even be aware you are pregnant at 20 weeks  [option insert of discussion of the number of times you have missed your period for more then two months]

This bill will jeopardize the lives, safety, and prosperity of South Carolina women. Women will still need to get abortions, so those with the means will travel out of state at their expense, and women without the means will either face the immense cost of raising a child more often than not in a household that cannot afford it, which in turn will burden the state, and those who cannot afford it and are desperate to avoid that fate will find other means of terminating the pregnancy, and many will be irreparably harmed or killed in that effort. Women will die as a direct result of this bill.

Finally, the gendered language effectively states that women are not equal to men as “personhood is God-given, as all men are created in the image of God.” 

 

H.R. 7 Passes in the House

Yesterday at 2:05 p.m., the house heard H.R. 55, titled “Providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 7) to prohibit taxpayer funded abortions.” The measure passed 233 to 187.

I’m not 100% sure what happens from here. The measure that passed technically just means they agree to consider H.R. 7. At 4:18, the record says the matter of H.R. 7 was considered finished business, which is just vague and seems slightly passive aggressive? Like what your mother says to you when she won’t extend your curfew.  The  congressional record for H.R. 7 lists the most recent action as passing.

In her introduction of her bill, Rep. Cheney (R-WY) called the bill bipartisan, which is pretty comical given the vote results. Of the 101 co-sponsors to the bill, one was a Democrat. So this bill is at best 0.99% bipartisan.

Her introduction was short, and stated that the purpose of the bill was simply to codify the Hyde amendment. She says the fact that federal subsidies are used to help people pay for healthcare that covers abortions a violation of the Hyde amendment and that it should be rectified. I watched the proceedings to see if there was a cogent argument that wasn’t only driven by people being opposed to abortion on underlying moral and religious grounds. There wasn’t one. There was repetition that the Hyde Amendment has “saved” 2 million lives, that 61% of Americans do not support tax-payer funded abortion, and alarmist descriptions of abortion from a republican Rep. Smith (NJ) , notably this gem:

“The billion abortion industry markets the choice and going to extraordinary lengths to cover up, ignore and trivialize the battered victim child in the womb. Madam speaker, pro-life americans struggle for the day when abortion will be replaced by compassion and empathy for women and respect for the most vulnerable among us, the child in the womb. They believe that we ought to love them both, mother and child, and not fund the destruction of children through abortion.” Notably,there was no discussion of empathy or compassion for the children once they are outside of the womb.

The voices of opposition were strong and measured, but often veered to comment on Trump’s tax returns and conflicts of interest. I think this is a trend we will see continue. given a revelation brought up by Rep. McGovern when he rose in opposition. His comments are just spot on and alarmingly shed light on the fact that the house republicans did not allow amendments to be heard on the bill.  “There is no opportunity for any amendments to be heard here today. No opportunity for there to be a real debate. And I regret that very much. Again that is the trend that we see in this congress,” he began. 

But this bill isn’t really about the Hyde amendment. Despite what republicans claim, this extreme and sweeping bill would go even further by placing unprecedented limits on women’s access to reproductive access to reproductive — private insurance can spend private dollars when purchasing health insurance would radically change our nation’s long-standing policy. It is deeply troubling and must not become law.

And I hope people who believe in upholding a woman’s right to choose are watching this debate. And I hope that they are just as outraged as I am by this attempt to roll back women’s health care rights. I hope they call their representatives in congress today to speak out. This is a time for action and we need all of you to make your voices heard.

Representative Watson-Coleman pointed out the hypocrisy so often present in GOP pro-life supporters:

The G.O.P. Has put our bodies and the choices we should get to make about them in the middle of a political firestorm. And with every exhaustingly repetitive argument about when, how and where that a woman should be able to make those decisions, our country suffers. If my republican colleagues are concerned about the life of a child why isn’t their priority to put forward a plan for public education? Why haven’t seen a comprehensive plan a job for job growth. I refuse to allow this white house say politics can rule over a women’s body.

Representative Gottheimer got into the details.

“Now the house is considering a radical bill that would undermine a woman’s right to make her own health decisions but also her ability to choose her own health insurance plan. On top of that, the bill would raise taxes on small businesses who provide their employees with access to comprehensive I health coverage and impose unfair burdens on the women of the united states military. These are the facts. I will always fight back against efforts to limit choice and women’s health.”

You can watch the proceedings here.

As I was watching the proceedings, I received a call from Senator Lindsey Graham’s local office. I’ve called them over the past few weeks about several different issues. Yesterday it was H.R. 7, and on Monday it was DeVos and the U.N. I explained my concerns over the bill and he said “But isn’t there already a law about this?” Yes, sir. Yes there is.

The senate vote on H.R. 7 has not been scheduled yet. Click here to find and call your senator.

 

Action & Context — H.R. 7 No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure

This is the first of what I hope to be a regular type of post with 4 parts: The Bill, where the concern in question is identified and defined, Context, where I’ll try to relay the human-speak version of said issue as discussed by third-party sources (always linked), Discussion (my thoughts, if any), and Action, with links to contact relevant parties and any helpful scripts. 


The Bill

The bill text is a bit ambiguous, but the basic gist is this:
  1. It would make permanent the federal prohibition of tax funded abortion services (this is currently voted on every year)
  2. Place bans on insurance companies participating in the Affordable Care Act marketplace from offering abortion coverage.

Context

Salon broke it down really well:
“It effectively bans providers that participate in the Affordable Care Act marketplace from offering abortion coverage,” said Amy Friedrich-Karnik, the senior federal policy adviser for the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a phone interview. “The way that it does that is by saying women who get premium assistance credits are not allowed to use those credits to purchase any plan that has abortion coverage…In other words, this bill would ban anyone who receives subsidies to buy insurance through Obamacare from purchasing a plan that covers abortion. While that’s numerically a narrow group of people, this bill could end up undercutting most or all private insurance coverage for abortion.
It would, as Friedrich-Karnik explains, become so difficult for insurance companies to figure out who is and is not eligible to buy plans that covered abortion that companies might well choose to remove abortion coverage from all their plans. Most private insurance companies currently offer abortion coverage, but that could very well change if this bill becomes law.”

Discussion

There is a pro and con list attached to the write up on Countable. My personal opinion, for what it’s worth, is that a) I understand why they might not want to have to vote on the Hyde amendment every year, but inconvenience isn’t a good enough reason. To me the repeated vote is an effort of checks and balances. b) As we know,  the Supreme Court settled this matter int he eyes of the federal government. Access to abortion is a right, so to me, any regulation or restriction is morally driven and not legally justified. If there is a legal argument why this one procedure should not be covered by insurance but others are, I would like to hear it. I haven’t heard one that doesn’t invoke a polarizing moral imperative that is entirely subjective.

Action

If you want to contact your rep you can do so through that site, as well as through the House Find Your Rep page. Since the bill will probably be voted on today, I suggest calling both local and DC offices and sending an email.
Here is a script:
Dear Representative NAME,
I’m writing/calling today to voice my concern over the proposed legislation in House Resolution 7, No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017. This bill has the potential to raise both individual healthcare costs and risks. I am concerned it will place additional limitations on the few insurance companies available through the ACA marketplace and has the potential to limit coverage even further.
Thank you,
Your Name