Proposal to Include Fetuses in ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law Moves Forward in South Carolina


A South Carolina bill that passed a senate committee on Thursday would expand the state’s “stand your ground” self-defense law to include fetuses.

Under the new law, pregnant women would be protected from prosecution if they use lethal force to defend their “unborn children,” defined as “the offspring of human beings from conception until birth.”

Reproductive rights activists say the bill is unnecessary because current law already allows any person, including pregnant women, to use lethal force to protect themselves.

While the law would not actually ban abortion or contraception, as suggested in some news reports, it still “could be a strategy of the anti-abortion movement to chip away at rights,” Amanda Allen, state legislative counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, told RH Reality Check.

Allen said the bill does not grant fetuses full legal “personhood” rights, and doesn’t touch on abortion or contraception. But, she said, “The threat is whether the personhood language could be exploited down the line to restrict access to reproductive health.”

The anti-choice group Americans United for Life wrote model language for the bill, and has long advocated for laws that create harsher penalties, or even a separate crime, for harming fetuses.

A fetal homicide bill currently advancing in Florida, HB 59, would create a separate crime for harming a fetus during an attack on a pregnant woman, and, like South Carolina’s proposed law, applies to the earliest stages of pregnancy. At least 38 states have fetal homicide laws, and at least 23 of those apply to the earliest stages of pregnancy.

The proposed laws in Florida and South Carolina are different: while Florida’s has to do with creating a separate crime, South Carolina’s deals with expanding that state’s self-defense law. But both bills “raise the specter of personhood in the law,” Allen said, and neither is necessary.

“For both bills, the question is not whether pregnant women should have sufficient protection under the law,” Allen said. “The question is really how to do that in a way that wouldn’t jeopardize reproductive rights down the line, and both the South Carolina and the Florida bills fail to strike that balance appropriately.”

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  • lady_black

    Seriously?

  • fiona64

    Well, I guess Gary Cangemi can draw a tiny gun for Umbert the Unborn … after all, the fetus already has a computer and a telephone, so why not a Glock?

    Just when I think the anti-choice cannot possibly be more ridiculous, some yutz comes up with *this* legislation? Really?

    • fiona64

      Reply to Fred Murtz, in moderation:

      “And they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love …”

  • chunt

    Why wouldn’t every woman have the right to stand her ground? Just another ploy by the so called pro-lifers who want to abolish abortions. It won’t be long before women won’t be able to make any decisions for herself.

  • chunt

    I would rather a woman have the legal right to an abortion than to read case after case where an irresponsible woman gives birth to a child who is neglected and abused because the mother chooses to keep the check than give her baby up for adoption. I don’t understand these people. in a perfect world, all women would want the babies that they conceive and we’d all live in perfect harmony forever. It’s just not that way in the real world. i also feel it’s wrong for a rich politician who has a nanny to raise their children and then send them off to private schools and have no day to day interaction with their children tell women who aren’t privy these these things that they must bear an unwanted child.

    • jan stewart

      why? because there is so much money in adoption?

      • chunt

        No offense and not trying to play dense, i don’t under what you’re saying here. Just for the record, i do believe there are honest, caring pro-lifers who are passionate about their feelings and they may have an answer to my questions that i may not have considered. It’s a shame that we don’t have more places for women with questions to go to receive counseling without any biased agenda. Although, i have an opinion at this point, i am open to listening to other opinions. i can only have an opinion about my experiences and observations. Sorry for lengthy response.

        • Suzie Kidnap

          you say “give the baby up for adoption” like it’s nothing. my baby was TAKEN right out of my body, in the delivery room, and disappeared immediately into a closed adoption in 1968. i ws a rape victim, but i still wanted my baby. i had no real access to abortion in those days.

          losing a child to adoption is a horror and a lifelong hell that no one seems to grasp, unless they have had the expereince.

          i will not depress you with the details of what life after adoption loss is like. all i will say is that it alters your life for the worse, that the repurcussions are endless and affect not only the woman involved, but the partner she eventually chooses as well as any subsequent children, that the pain is a daily pain, and that it is a life long sentence.

          but, i will say that prescribing adoption when you haven’t been through it yourself is something that women who do care about other womens’ lives, should avoid doing.

          you simply do not know the destruction and havoc that follow in adoption’s wake.

          • chunt

            i am so sorry for what you went through. i can only imagine the horror. I, in no way, intended to trivialize what women have to go through the process of adoption. I only brought it up because people who are adamantly against abortion strongly advise adoption as the only alternative a woman should have when faced with an unwanted pregnancy. i am strongly against any group or government agency forcing any woman into a choice of their choosing. i think women should have choices and information so they can decide what is going to be best for them. Sometimes, these pro-life groups make adoption sound like a walk in the park. Making a woman continue to complete an unwanted pregnancy is wrong to me. Abortion shouldn’t be used as ongoing birth control, but should be a choice the woman makes.
            Please accept my sincere apology for any hurt i caused you with my words. Hurting someone was the furthest thing from my mind.

  • ansuz

    Under the new law, pregnant women would be protected from prosecution if they use lethal force to defend their “unborn children,” defined as “the offspring of human beings from conception until birth.”

    Would this law allow anyone other than the pregnant person to use potentially lethal force in defence of a zef (in any situation where the force could not just as easily be said to be in defence of the pregnant person)?
    Could a sidewalk counsellor use lethal force on a clinic escort and be protected by this law? Maybe if they claim that the clinic escort was pressuring the pregnant person in some way?

    • Ella Warnock

      This is exactly the scenario that the creators of this bill are hoping for. Make it legally open season on anyone involved with a clinic.

      • ansuz

        That’s my suspicion, too. I just have an exam tomorrow and no time to read the actual language of the thing.

    • chunt

      Great questions. i would think that a pregnant woman’s right to self defense would automatically cover the fetus. She wouldn’t use self defense just to save her unborn child and leave herself at risk, right? i’m sure I’ve probably missed something. Sometimes when laws are expanded, we wind up opening ourselves up to more trouble. There has to be a reason that people with more education and experience than myself felt the need to have this bill. Just because I don’t get it or disagree with doesn’t make it appropriate for the majority of society. if it benefits a true majority, i’m good with that. Sorry, i talk too much sometimes. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

      • ansuz

        “There has to be a reason that people with more education and experience than myself felt the need to have this bill.”
        That reason doesn’t have to be a good one.

        • chunt

          Thank you for responding. It’s always great to find someone that agrees.

      • whatareuthinking

        chunt the people that felt the need to have this bill are not basing it on anything more than PERSONAL AGENDA. One sometimes assumes that “the powers that be” must know something that we don’t know. False. The hope among these legislators is that they are able to further their own agendas because people won’t read the bill in it’s entirety, or they won’t take the time and effort to think about the subtlety of the language. They are also banking on the fact that people, like you stated, will assume the legislators know what they’re doing. Don’t sell yourself short. The power is in the voters, and they need to be on their toes all of the time.

        • chunt

          Thank you. i try to give everybody the benefit of doubt because i don’t want to wrongfully accuse anybody when no arm was intended. Thank you again.

    • fiona64

      I believe that’s *exactly* what they have in mind.

  • whatareuthinking

    This is stupid. Now the anti-choicers will be establishing legislation that defines when life begins. This is a ploy. They are expecting women to think that they are being considered important, and so are their unborn children–important enough for new legislation to “protect” them. Anyone who is a threat to a woman’s unborn child is obviously posing a threat to her own safety as well, therefor the stand your ground law would apply. I seriously hope people aren’t stupid enough to fall for this kind of creeping oppression. This is furthering an agenda that is harmful to women, under the guise of “protection”.

    • chunt

      i always thought we were in this world together and needed to work together in finding solutions to our problems with respect for each other, but that was extremely naive. it seems there alot of people in power that have personal agendas and want everyone to fall in line.

  • CJ99

    This legislation is a glass house and we can all see its authours are doing in the bathroom. The real goal is to prosecute those who provide abortions and very likely those who provide contraception. I won’t be surprised when another George Zimmerman or Bernie Getz shows up at an abortion clinic & commits a murder ‘to defend the babies”

  • jan stewart

    so I could use lethal force when some one tries to abduct my newborn?

    • chunt

      What a novel idea! lol! Sometimes, when i read some of this stuff my first reaction is
      “Oh, thanks, i never thought of that”. Honestly, what parent wouldn’t protect their child, “special” written permission of not?

  • Ineedacoffee

    So essentially they have granted personhood rights to a bunch of cells, or very close too such laws
    That is horrifying