By Robert Scott
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
I like our state senator, Shane Massey. I respect his views even though I often don’t agree with them, and he hosts open discussions with his constituents throughout his senatorial district. One topic that seems always to come up: what the state governor and legislature, and he as our senator, are doing to address the never-ending controversy about abortion.
Last week a state legislator from Spartanburg introduced a bill on that topic, a bill that made front page headlines in the Columbia newspaper: H. 3549, the South Carolina Pre-Natal Equal Protection Act. If it were to pass, it would unequivocally take the logic of several so-called “personhood” actions to their consistent conclusion: if human life begins at conception, then from fertilized egg to birth a fetus is legally a human being with all the ramifications that entails. One of those ramifications is that anyone, including not only a physician but also the potential mother, intentionally ends that life, then that is an act of murder, subject to the same legal penalties as any other murder. Specifically, a woman intentionally terminating her pregnancy could, if found guilty, be subject to the death penalty. On seeing this newspaper article, Sen. Massey tweeted, “I get the press needs clicks, but giving front page status to an article that suggests South Carolina could, might, maybe, potentially impose this type of penalty is irresponsible and devoid of credibility. This has zero chance of passing.”
It is comforting that someone as politically knowledgeable as Sen. Massey would conclude that such a bill has no chance of passing. I disagree with him, however, that the press should not highlight that we have state legislators who would wish to enact such a law – something which, certainly, is in itself newsworthy. Such a law would, after all, merely be the logical end point of any law which grants “personhood” to the unborn, and rightfully brings up this question: not “when does life begin” inside a woman’s womb, but rather “when does human life begin”? When, in other words, is there human life that our government is empowered, indeed required, to protect, notwithstanding the wishes of the mother? That is the question that the Supreme Court in its Roe v. Wade decision, now nullified, attempted to answer; the answer was set at the point when the fetus was capable of living independent from the mother, i.e., could sustain life outside the womb.
Is the answer to that fundamental question one that should be answered by the U.S. or perhaps the South Carolina Supreme Court? Or by the U.S. Congress or by the South Carolina Legislature? Or by the President or the Governor? Or by the Bible, the Quran, the Torah? Or by the religion favored by the majority of national or of state voters? When does human life begin? Perhaps the answer should be this: the question must rightfully fall to the mother, with the advice of those whose advice she alone honors; the rest of us should focus on supporting that mother and support the child when its life unarguably is before us: at, and following, birth. Any other answer leads to logic which enables such horrors as would be mandated by H.3549, and (so far) hardly anybody, even in the South Carolina Legislature, wants that.