Republicans Graham, Mace slam SC anti-abortion bill as an ‘outlier’ and ‘disgusting’

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Republicans Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Nancy Mace have slammed a controversial state House bill that critics argue could punish South Carolinians seeking abortions with the death penalty, a proposal that Republican leaders say will go nowhere in the General Assembly.

“That is so out of line with the pro-life movement,” Graham told The State Media Co. Saturday at the conservative Palmetto Family Council’s 2024 forum in North Charleston. “That is an outlier. It is not being embraced by anybody. The pro-life movement is trying to make arguments for the unborn, trying to find solutions to protect children, not execute mothers. So I think it is so out of the mainstream. I think it’s going nowhere, and there’s not one pro-life group I know of that has adopted that way of thinking.”

Freshman state Rep. Rob Harris, R-Spartanburg, in December pre-filed legislation — named the South Carolina Pre-Natal Equal Protection Act — that would offer fetuses equal protection under state law and would reclassify the act of an abortion as “wilful prenatal homicide,” which could result in a sentence from 30 years in prison up to the death penalty.

Harris’ proposal isn’t going to pass, House and Senate Republican leaders said last week after the bill gained national media attention. House and Senate Republicans have so far been unable to reach a compromise over when to limit abortions, and Harris is a member of the 20-member House Freedom Caucus, which for months has been at odds with the House Republican Caucus.

At least nine House Republicans since Feb. 28 have removed their names as co-sponsors of the bill, which now has 15 sponsors.

Graham has pushed for national legislation that would ban abortions after 15 weeks, which, he says, is when an unborn fetus can feel pain. South Carolina’s current law bans abortions at about 20 weeks after the state Supreme Court ruled the previous six-week abortion ban unconstitutional.

“If you’re for executing mothers in the abortion debate, then you will crash and burn as a candidate,” Graham said.

U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace, a former Republican state legislator who now represents the 1st District in Congress, called Harris’ bill disturbing.

In the South Carolina House, Mace advocated for rape and incest exceptions to be included in the six-week “fetal heartbeat” abortion ban, after she publicly shared her story of rape that she had kept secret for more than two decades.

“It is deeply disturbing to me as a woman and as a victim of rape that some in my home state want to give rapists more rights than women who’ve been raped,” Mace tweeted March 16. “And I don’t know why I have to say this, but it isn’t pro life to execute a woman who seeks an abortion after being raped.”

Reporter Joseph Bustos contributed to this report.