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Commentary: SC Legislature shouldn't compromise on protecting all life

South Carolinians have a lot to be proud of, but a rising abortion rate isn’t one of them. Tragically, the Palmetto State reported a 15% increase in the number of abortions last year — that’s 6,279 abortions. Among the total number, 73.6% were done with chemical abortion pills, and that number is only increasing. All this leads to a crisis in our culture and an opportunity for South Carolina in a post-Roe America.

South Carolina repealed its pre-Roe abortion laws in 1974, to bring the state into compliance with Roe v. Wade. Now the state’s leaders dedicated to protecting life in law and service have an opportunity to create one of the strongest legal frameworks protecting mothers and their preborn children through H.5399, introduced by former House Speaker Jay Lucas.

To bring an end to the violence of abortion in South Carolina, we are calling for legislators to follow Rep. John McCravy’s principled leadership on the House ad hoc committee on abortion, which paved the way for the version of H. 5399 that was approved Tuesday by the House Judiciary Committee. This bill safeguards life at conception, with support for medical care if a mother’s life is in danger but without prejudice against children for their sex, age, race, perceptions of their abilities or the circumstances of their conception. This cutting-edge measure has already passed in Oklahoma and Arkansas.

For too long, abortion lobbyists have argued that we must hold children accountable for the crimes of their fathers. But tragic cases of rape and incest should not demand a death sentence for an innocent child. Perpetrators should be held accountable to the full extent of the law, but a child should not face the death penalty for the actions of another.

The violence of abortion will not cure the violence of rape, and our society must offer women care and support as they process what happened. Also important is the child, who does not deserve to be shamed for a man’s actions.

Consider the story of Ryan Bomberger, who tweeted on his birthday: “Though I was conceived in rape, I was adopted in love. My birth mom’s courageous decision will cause reverberations for generations. So grateful that I'm able to love and be loved!”

At one point in world history, children were devalued based on how they were conceived. Laws governing “bastards,” those conceived outside of marriage, allowed children to be abandoned, left uneducated and without family support. South Carolina needs to lead the way in valuing all children, no matter their circumstances, and must not continue regressive policies that define a child’s worth based on social criteria.

We don’t issue birth certificates in the United States with a ratings system based on the events of conception or on a child’s race, age, sex or perceived abilities. A birth certificate notes only one thing — that a unique and valuable person has entered the world.

Now that Roe v. Wade has been rightfully reversed, this is not the time to weaken legislation that can save almost all preborn children. In addition to recruiting top student leaders to join us for lobby days, Students for Life Action has already sent more than 500,000 personal text messages and phone calls in targeted states (including more than 100,000 in South Carolina) and launched digital ads to mobilize pro-lifer voters to contact their legislators and encourage them to stand strong for life at conception legislation with protections for children conceived in rape and incest and for saving a mother’s life.

When our nation devalues people based on external circumstances, wrong policy choices always emerge. Consider South Carolinian, educator, human rights activist and daughter to former slaves Mary McCleod Bethune, who said: “Invest in the human soul. Who knows, it might be a diamond in the rough.”

South Carolina needs to invest in all its children, who deserve to be welcomed with open arms.

Kristan Hawkins is president of Students for Life of America and Students for Life Action, with 1,300 groups on middle and high school and college campuses in all 50 states. Follow her @KristanHawkins. Chad Connelly lives in Prosperity, is a former chairman of the S.C. Republican Party and runs the nonprofit advocacy group Faith Wins.

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