A South Carolina senator has raised a bill that, if passed, would require the state to compensate women who are unable to obtain abortions because of a proposed ‘heartbeat bill’ banning abortion once a preborn child’s heartbeat can be detected. SB 928, entitled the “South Carolina Pro Birth Accountability Act,” states that a woman who is unable to have an abortion because of the law would be forced to be a “gestational surrogate” for the state “which cannot itself physically conceive or carry a child.”
The bill refers to a preborn child as an “unborn embryo” and falsely claims that under the proposed state heartbeat law, a preborn child’s development is “deemed governmentally more important than the life and rights of the pregnant woman.”
The bill asserts that under constitutional principles, the state “may not force a citizen to serve in any capacity without fair payment or to [sic] take a citizen’s property without just compensation.” It then claims that women who are prevented by the heartbeat bill from obtaining abortions would be gestational surrogates for the state. The bill likens a woman’s uterus to “rental property” in the surrogacy market, and declares that the state may not “require a woman to incubate a child without appropriate compensation.”
Attorney Marguerite Willis said of the bill:
The government can’t take property from a citizen without a compensation. It can’t take away a rental property from you without paying you so if it wants to rent your womb to incubate your child then it has to compensate and it’s a constitutional issue of taking property or requiring the citizen to serve the state which they can’t do without compensation.
It proposes that the state must compensate such women with reasonable living and medical expenses, including mental health expenses, related to the time before, during and after the pregnancy. It further would allow a pregnant woman to claim a preborn child who has a detectable heartbeat as a child for tax credit purposes. These women also would be eligible automatically for state benefits such as the Nurse-Family Partnership and permanent public assistance through the child’s 18th birthday.
If such a pregnant woman or her preborn child, or both, were to die during pregnancy or labor and birth, the state would be required to pay for all associated funeral and burial expenses. The bill would also require the state to assume financial responsibility for any disability developed by the mother during the pregnancy, and for any disability or congenital abnormality of the child for the duration of the child’s life. The state would also be responsible for all costs associated with the child’s dental, health, and vision insurance, including all premiums, copays, or deductibles, until age 18. If the woman is unmarried and the biological father is unknown or unable to provide support, or if the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest, the state would be required to pay child support. Finally, the state would be required to provide a fully funded college savings plan for the child.
In addition to the proposed benefits, the bill would allow the estate of a pregnant woman who dies as a result of the pregnancy or childbirth to pursue a civil tort action against the state for compensable and punitive damages.
To obtain these benefits, a woman would need merely to file an affidavit with the Department of Social Services avowing that she would have chosen to terminate her pregnancy but was not legally able to because of the heartbeat law and the South Carolina Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. An affidavit is a written document that is sworn to be true by the person making the statement. This is very problematic, as it is conceivable that any pregnant woman who resides in South Carolina could seek and obtain these benefits merely by filing an affidavit, whether she actually intended to have an abortion or not.
There would be virtually no way to prevent women from fabricating an intention to have an abortion so they could receive these benefits.
A final provision of the bill puts responsibility for child support payments in the case of an unmarried woman on the biological father if he becomes known by admission or paternity testing at any time during the pregnancy or after the birth, and child support payments would be calculated retroactive to the time the child’s heartbeat was detected. A father who willfully accrues more than $5000 in unpaid child support would be guilty of a misdemeanor and, if convicted, would be sentenced to up to three years imprisonment. The court would have the option to suspend any portion of the sentence if the father agreed to pay the unpaid support in full and if he consented to a voluntary vasectomy.
The representative who was the lead sponsor of the heartbeat bill told the Charleston Post and Courier that he will oppose SB 928 and that there already exist many pregnancy centers in the state that “offer help and assistance with prenatal, adoption and/or child care.”
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