SC Right to Life Act (Personhood) is Dead in House
The subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Greg Delleney, will almost certainly not recommend the bill to the next stage.
I had hoped to speak in support of the bill, but the two members of the public who spoke took the entire hour, including the time they spent responding to questions and comments from the subcommittee. Several others also had hoped to speak. I was surprised there was no time limit which would have allowed more members of the public to have a say.
Rep. Delleney made it clear that he wants to save babies' lives, but he did not see a convincing case that the definition of the right to life beginning at fertilization would save a single life. He said he is pushing two bills that will save lives immediately (Born-Alive Protection and 24-Hour Waiting Period) and he isn't going to jepoardize these bills by also pushing the personhood bill, which he views as merely symbolic.
One speaker, Steve Lefemine, advanced a weak argument (the law is a schoolmaster, therefore this definition will lead people to value life more and abort less) to suggest the bill would save lives. The other speaker focused on the fact that the representatives would have to give account to God for the way they vote on this bill, so they must vote as they believe Jesus would.
Rep. Delleney is right that this bill would not save any babies at first, because it does not specifically address abortion. I see it as more than symbolism because it sets the principle forth so that a later abortion ban could be backed up by our state law. An abortion ban could be successful under only two scenarios: the Supreme Court upholds it (requiring a change in the composition of the Court); or South Carolina declares abortion law to be a power reserved to the states under the 10th amendment, and defies the federal government. Lefemine hinted at the latter possibility.
The possibility of a conservative shift on the Supreme Court prior to 2013 seems remote at best. And it is just as hard to imagine a scenario where a majority of state lawmakers and the governor would be willing to defy the federal government or Supreme Court--especially over abortion.
Of course Congress (if the makeup changes dramatically in November) could remove jurisdiction of abortion law from the Supreme Court, but that opens up constitutional issues we have not yet encountered. Again, having such a law signed into law before 2013 would be impossible.
I am disappointed in the subcommittee's decision, because the right to life should be declared to vest at fertilization, whether we can make meaningful policy changes yet or not. I hope to see the state senate go farther with their version (S. 450). (Rep. Delleney pledged to pass it through the state house if the senate passes it first.)
But regardless of the success of a personhood bill, abortion will remain legal for at least a few years. For now we must save as many lives as possible through prayer, education, intervention, pregnancy centers, sidewalk counseling, and legislative restrictions such as Delleney is currently fighting for.
Wesley Wilson is the President of Let Her Live, a nonprofit dedicated to saving babies by showing the beauty and value of life to women considering abortion. Please learn more about the Let Her Live pro-life billboard campaign. Donations are tax deductible.