South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace

South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace discusses being sexually assaulted by a friend at age 16. Mace advocated for exceptions for rape and incest to the proposed six-week abortion ban. Brad Nettles/Staff

If you thought Nancy Mace was tough because she was the first woman to go through The Citadel, you don’t know the half of it.

The Berkeley County lawmaker recently revealed that she was raped in high school — and talked about it publicly to help other victims of sexual assault.

That is the very definition of tough.

On the floor of the state House of Representatives, Mace — who opposes abortion — spoke in defense of an amendment to the “fetal heartbeat” abortion ban that would exclude cases of rape and incest.

“For a woman who’s been through that kind of trauma, I think that choosing an abortion could be equally traumatic — but I’m not going to take that decision away from her,” Mace said.

Mace understands and empathizes with those women because, she says, she was raped at the age of 16 by someone she considered a friend.

For 25 years, no one knew except her mother and best friend from high school. As most people with a heart or half a brain can understand, rape is overwhelming, emotionally stressful and hard to talk about. And many don’t. But Mace says that more women and — let’s face it, pre-teen girls — don’t report sexual assault or incest because they end up getting blamed for it.

So what did anti-abortion advocates do in response to Mace’s brave admission?

They attacked her, of course. They blamed her.

State Rep. Josiah Magnuson put a card from Personhood SC on Mace’s Statehouse desk last week that read, “It is a twisted logic that would kill the unborn child for the misdeed of the parent.”

Misdeed?

Now, Magnuson says the card was “poorly worded.” But was it accidental? Because his buddy, state Rep. Jonathon Hill, said pretty much the same thing to Mace’s face.

“Why should the product of rape be blamed?” Hill said during Mace’s remarks.

Magnuson and Hill are a couple of House back-benchers, best known for wanting to start a survivalist camp in the Upstate, complete with community ammunition depots. They knew exactly what they were doing.

They were trying to shake Mace. But she’s tougher than both of them.

“I’m beginning to think some of you believe every woman who’s raped lies about being raped,” Mace said.

Mace said she hoped that women who become pregnant as a result of rape choose to keep the child, but that it wasn’t her business to legislate that. Exactly. It’s no one’s business, except the person who is raped.

There are way too many men — ignorant of both anatomy and reproductive science — trying to exert control over women these days. Georgia and Alabama are both attempting to ban abortions after six weeks, a point at which many women do not even know they are pregnant.

Some South Carolina lawmakers have tried to pass similar measures, and Magnuson has even suggested legislation declaring a fertilized egg a person. It says something about this sort of ridiculous overreach that an abortion foe like Mace is the one who stands in their way.

“I don’t think rape or incest is a partisan issue,” Mace says. And, “A rapist is not a father.”

Amen.

If these lawmakers are so “pro-life,” why oppose modest laws to strengthen background checks or keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill? Hill, after all, lives in Townville — where in 2016 a 14-year-old shot four people at a school and killed a 6-year-old boy.

But time and again, these folks show that a child’s life is not sacrosanct, it’s trumped by the right to own an AR-15. That’s not “pro-life,” that’s “pro-birth.”

Magnuson may face punishment for his actions. House Majority Leader Gary Simrill plans to remind him about the chamber’s rules of decorum. But don’t expect him to stop.

Magnuson said Mace put herself out there as a defender of the rape and incest exclusions. In a letter to lawmakers last week, Personhood SC said, “The problem of some is not the ‘poor wording’ of this sentence, but that these people just simply want abortion in cases of rape and incest.”

Mace didn’t ask to have her position distorted by zealots any more than she asked to be raped. She had no choice.

And if these people have their way, no one else will either.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.

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