South Carolina Fetal Personhood Amendment: Here's What You Should Know About Proposed Law

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After an intense fight over reproductive rights in 2015, women's health advocates are gearing up for another long battle over proposed legislation to restrict access to abortion. This includes the fight against the South Carolina Fetal Personhood Amendment, a measure that could endow full legal rights to the unborn, which might appear on the Nov. 8 ballot in South Carolina.

Section 3 of Article I of the South Carolina Constitution grants the citizens of South Carolina the privileges and immunities of any citizen of the United States; ensures the rights of a citizens life, liberty and property; and provides citizens with equal protection under the law. The proposed fetal personhood amendment, if approved, would add a Section 3.a to Article I of the South Carolina Constitution. 

Section 3.a, if approved by voters, would ensure that no "born or preborn persons beginning at conception" would "be deprived of life without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws." If the amendment is approved, unborn children would be granted the same rights as a citizen.

To be placed on the Nov 8. ballot, the proposed amendment needs a two-thirds vote in both chambers of the South Carolina Legislature. The amendment will go back to the legislature for a second look before becoming a law, if the amendment is approved by South Carolina voters.

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In 2014, the South Carolina Legislature nearly passed two pieces of legislation that would have succeeded in restricting women's access to abortion in the state. Neither passed at the time.

"The bills had little to do with women's health. They were 100% about inserting politics where they don't belong: into the personal, private medical decisions of a woman," the director of the American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project, Jennifer Dalven, told ThinkProgress in a statement in 2014. "This is a victory for South Carolina women."

Now, in 2016, Republican-led efforts to limit abortions have resurfaced and are stronger than before. One of the efforts, a bill to criminalize abortion after 20 weeks, passed the state House and Senate in 2015, according to Free Times. Several abortion-related proposals could very likely become the topic of discussion again.

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According to the Free Times, a South Carolina newspaper, South Carolina House Republicans have set their sights on abortion legislation — notably a bill filed by Rep. Donna Hicks that would attempt to divorce the relationship between Planned Parenthood, or other abortion-friendly entities, and the state once and for all. 

The bill would guarantee that no state family planning funds would be allowed to "perform, induce, refer for or counsel in favor of abortions, or that have affiliates that perform, induce, refer for or counsel in favor of abortions."

Called the Defunding the Abortion Industry and Advancing Women's Health Act, the bill wouldn't just stop at targeting Planned Parenthood and similar entities, according to Free Times. The bill would limit funding toward abortion research, prohibit public health departments from referring women to abortion agencies and even ban medical students from learning abortion techniques.

 So far 34 South Carolina House Republicans have signed on to the bill.

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The fetal personhood debate has been raging for decades. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in the United States, dismantling most state laws restricting or banning abortions with the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. 

According the the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 38 U.S. states recognize an unborn child as a crime victim and have fetal homicide laws currently. South Carolina is on the list.