By Holly Gatling, Executive Director, South Carolina Citizens for Life
COLUMBIA, S.C. – On Thursday, The Constitutional Laws Subcommittee of the South Carolina House Judiciary Committee advanced a new Human Life Protection Act (H3774) to the full Judiciary Committee. The full House Judiciary Committee is expected to take up the measure on February 7, 2023.
Voting in favor of H3774 were Constitutional Laws Subcommittee Chairman Wallace “Jay” Jordan, R-Florence, House Judiciary Chairman Weston Newton, R-Beaufort, and Representative Travis Moore, R-Spartanburg. Two subcommittee members were absent; Representatives Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg, and William Wheeler III, D-Lee. Both have an anti-life voting history.
Representative John McCravy, R-Greenwood, who was the chief sponsor of a nearly identical bill that failed last year, and is chief sponsor of H3774, gave a detailed presentation of the bill. The full transcript of his remarks to the subcommittee is below.
Representative McCravy addressed two issues that affected the redrafting of the 2023 Human Life Protection Act. First was the South Carolina Supreme Court’s 3-2 decision to overturn the 2021 Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act. The second was addressing objections of the State Senate which killed the 2022 Human Life Protection Act.
“Unfortunately, a majority of our own South Carolina Supreme Court recently took it upon themselves to assume the role of the legislature and struck down the Heartbeat law,” McCravy said. He noted, however, that Justice John Few in his dissenting opinion left open the possibility that legislation with a “balancing test” might be upheld by the high court. Justice Few’s opinion “stated that had the legislature found that human life begins at conception, the interest of human life would outweigh the right to privacy. This bill recognizes that human life begins at conception and that human life is deserving of protection at all stages of development and decline.”
Addressing last year’s disagreements with the Senate, Representative McCravy said a majority of the senators insisted on exceptions for women impregnated by sexual assault and women whose babies are diagnosed before birth with a fatal fetal anomaly.
“I am against exceptions for sexual assault and fatal fetal anomaly,” Representative McCravy said. “I believe strongly that all life is created by God, has a purpose, and all lives should be protected regardless of disability or how that life was conceived.”
He called the Senate’s insistence on exceptions a “political reality” and continued, “The bill before you recognizes this political reality and contains the Senate version of these exceptions for sexual assault and fatal fetal anomaly.”
South Carolina Citizens for Life and the state’s coalition of pro-life, pro-family organizations strongly supported H3774 with in-person testimony and written testimony. These include the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, Palmetto Family, the South Carolina Baptist Convention, the South Carolina Association of Pregnancy Care Centers, the South Carolina Republican Party, and the Alliance Defending Freedom among others. Numerous pro-life physicians, nurses, and individuals with pro-life stories to tell submitted written testimony in support of H3774.
Chairman Jordan encourage anyone interested in commenting on H3774 to send written testimony to HJudConstituionalLaws@schouse.gov.
Full Statement of Representative John McCravy, R-Greenwood, chief sponsor of H3774:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members. In the post Roe world, it has become the duty of our State Legislature elected by the people of South Carolina to determine appropriate policy to protect the lives of preborn people. Unfortunately, a majority of our own South Carolina Supreme Court recently took it upon themselves to assume the role of the legislature and struck down the heartbeat bill that had been passed by this legislature prior to Roe being overturned.
Last year, after hearing extensively from the public, the medical community, and others, a special committee of the House drafted language for our state [and] passed that law known as the Human Life Protection Act. That Act went through the full gamut of the legislative process and debate in both Houses multiple times. The bill H3774 is, I believe, the product of that debate and something we believe can pass both houses. The language contains the hard work of the Ad Hoc Committee, and the thrust of the bill passed by the House last year but also incorporates language from the Senate debate and language drafted through cooperation of the House and Senate.
The number one thing this bill does is to end the practice of abortion being used as birth control in our state. Most of the people of South Carolina agree that terminating life for mere convenience is wrong. The number one thing this bill does not do is to endanger the health care of women in any way. In fact, this is the number one misconception we found repeated in public hearings – that somehow women’s health care could be endangered by this proposed law. Nothing and absolutely nothing could be further from the truth.
This bill contains carefully crafted provisions protecting the life and serious bodily health of the mother. It preserves all and any type of emergency care to save the life or serious bodily health of the mother. In fact, the mother’s health and life is a primary concern and is fully protected in this legislation.
This bill contains medical clarity through specific assurances and listings that are not found in any other legislation in the nation. It is the intent that this language will serve as a model for partnering with the medical establishments perceived need for absolute clarity of interpretation and avoidance of any remote possibility of confusion when lives are at stake.
Nothing in the current law or this proposed bill restricts access to contraception. We specifically state in this bill that nothing herein affects access to contraception or emergency contraception. This bill does not affect the continuing practice of ART [Assisted Reproductive Treatment] and IVF [In Vitro Fertilization] in South Carolina so long as it complies with the ethical and medical standards of care of the reproductive medical community.
I think everyone here knows that I am against exceptions for sexual assault and fatal fetal anomaly. I believe strongly that all life is created by God, has a purpose, and all lives should be protected regardless of disability or how that life was conceived. Despite this belief that I share with some of you, the majority of the Senate does not share this belief. The Senate hammered out their own exceptions in debate, and these exceptions included those for sexual assault and fatal fetal anomaly. The last vote taken by the Senate last year did not contain fatal fetal anomaly and it failed really by one vote. This bill before you recognizes this political reality and contains the Senate version of these exceptions for sexual assault and fatal fetal anomaly. Despite these exceptions that recognize the political reality, statistics show this bill could save 99.5% of all babies, and I will be the first to come back and try to help us recognize that all life is precious in God’s eyes.
Finally, the language of this bill satisfies the balancing test used by Justice [John] Few in his controversial opinion. Make no mistake, I strongly disagree with Justice Few’s analysis and his violation of the separation of powers in the South Carolina Constitution. But he employed a balancing test. He weighed the life of a mere fetus against the right to privacy. In his opinion however, he stated that had the legislature found that human life begins at conception, the interest of human life would outweigh the right to privacy. This bill recognizes that human life begins at conception and that human life is deserving of protection at all stages of development and decline.
In conclusion, this proposed bill bans the practice of abortion as birth control period. It protects and preserves all legitimate women’s healthcare. Availability of contraception is not affected by this bill. The practice of in vitro fertilization and assisted reproductive therapy that encourages the reproduction of life is expressly preserved and encouraged. This bill contains the Senate exceptions for sexual assault and fatal fetal anomaly and the language should satisfy Justice Few’s flawed analysis.