These proposals are unlikely to succeed but remind Americans what is at stake, writes Rebecca Kluchin
BMJ 2023; 380 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.p711
Published 24 March 2023
Rebecca Kluchin, professor
In January 2023, 24 Republican legislators in the US state of South Carolina sponsored the South Carolina Equal Protection Act of 2023, a bill designed to extend constitutional rights to embryos and fetuses at all stages of development, granting them equality with women already born.1 The bill makes women and pregnant people who undergo abortion subject to the state’s homicide laws and punishments, including the death penalty. It allows exceptions if they face “imminent death or great bodily injury,” as well as to save the life of the mother, but not for rape or incest.
The anti-abortion movement celebrated a huge victory last summer when the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade. With the ruling for Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the court threw abortion policy back to the judgment of individual states, making access to abortion care contingent on where one lives. Since then, 14 states have criminalised abortion.2 South Carolina legislators attempted to ban the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy, but the state supreme court ruled that effort unconstitutional in January. The Equal Protection Act is one of several legislative efforts to ban the procedure again.