As anti-choice lawmakers double-down on bills that make abortion harder to access, a new South Carolina bill aims to make "pro-life" lawmakers prove just how pro-life they are. State Sen. Mia McLeod pre-filed a bill on Dec. 11 that would require the state to compensate people forced to give birth under its abortion restrictions. The bill, S.B. 928, would make South Carolina pay pregnant people who would've sought an abortion "for acting as a gestational surrogate for the state," according to Rewire.News.
The bill, called the Pro Birth Accountability Act, states that, “just as South Carolina may not constitutionally use a citizen’s rental property without just compensation, it may not constitutionally require a woman to incubate a child without appropriate compensation," Rewire.News reported. McLeod introduced the bill in response to the state's proposed six-week abortion ban, which has no exceptions for cases of rape or incest and would ban abortion before most people know they're pregnant. In fact, The Post and Courier reported that about two-thirds of abortions in South Carolina take place after six weeks of gestation, according to 2017 state health department data.
The bill would require the state to cover "reasonable living, legal, medical, psychological, and psychiatric expenses" related to the pregnancy, Rewire.News reported. When fetal cardiac activity is confirmed, a pregnant person would also be eligible for programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and WIC, and they and their child would continue to receive that support until the child turns 18 years old. The pregnant person would be also eligible for home visits from a nurse until the child's second birthday.
If a pregnant person developed a disability from carrying the pregnancy to term, the state would also cover the associated medical expenses. The same goes for the child: if they are born with a disability, the state would be required to cover all of the related medical expenses for the child's entire life.
McLeod's bill notes that South Carolina has deemed the development of a six-week-old embryo "governmentally more important than the life and rights" of a pregnant person, Rewire.News reported. McLeod said the bill is an effort to people who are affected by these bans aren't given any support or resources in return.
“It’s not a tongue-in-cheek kind of bill," McLeod told the Post and Courier. "Every year, there is some bill that seeks to take from women. This is a way to give them a real chance at life.”
Ann Warner, CEO of Columbia-based Women Rights’ Empowerment Network, told the Post and Courier that McLeod's bill forces anti-choice lawmakers to face the effects that abortion bans have on pregnant people. “This bill makes the point that legislators are not only wasting our precious time and resources with these extreme abortion bans; they will also create multiple new problems for people in South Carolina,” she said.
The anti-choice narrative often frames the abortion access debate as one about a pregnant person's selflessness: the idea is that a pregnancy is a "gift" and someone who is pregnant should be willing to make sacrifices to be a parent. As a result, it often ignores the very significant physical, financial, and emotional costs of pregnancy. Pregnancy is a life-threatening condition — especially in states like South Carolina, which has the eighth highest maternal morality rate in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Vicki Ringer, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic in South Carolina said in an email statement that the "proposed ban on abortion at six weeks forces many women to make a decision before they even realize they are pregnant." Ringer continued, "South Carolinians need and want more access to healthcare, not less, and we hope that Senator McLeod’s bill sparks a real conversation around reproductive health and rights in our state."
While the bill is not anticipated to pass, it makes a powerful point: Lawmakers and groups who support abortion restrictions aren't really "pro-life" if they only support a fetus' right to life while its in the womb. Without comprehensive social support programs that would keep a pregnant person and their baby health, "pro-life" laws are really just pro-forced birth.