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South Carolina Senate considers bill to pay women blocked from abortions

South Carolina Statehouse Associated Press/Photo by Mary Ann Chastain

South Carolina Senate considers bill to pay women blocked from abortions

A subcommittee of the state Senate’s Medical Affairs Committee on Wednesday discussed a bill that would have the state compensate women who were blocked from getting abortions by the state’s heartbeat law. The so-called South Carolina Pro Birth Accountability Act, compares a woman’s uterus to “rental property,” and maintains that, because the state is required to compensate a private citizen for any use of his or her rental property, it may not “require a woman to incubate a child without appropriate compensation.”

The bill’s sponsor, pro-abortion state Sen. Mia McLeod spoke before testimony on Wednesday, saying that “women and girls in this state will be thrown into vicious cycles of poverty by the six-week abortion ban.” She also said the bill allows senators who are pro-life “to prove it, by investing in South Carolina’s women.” McLeod first introduced the measure in 2020. Meanwhile, McLeod has become an independent, quitting the Democratic Party a year ago.

How have Republicans responded to the bill? State Sen. John McCravy, a pro-life Republican in 2019 told The Post and Courier of Charleston that McLeod’s bill pretends that help and assistance are not already available to new mothers: “Not only is material and spiritual help already out there, but I believe most people recognize the infinite blessing of life given by our Creator.”

What kind of compensation is allowed under the bill? The measure lists over a dozen forms of compensation a woman would be entitled to under the bill, including:

  • “Reasonable living, legal, medical, psychological, and psychiatric expenses that are directly related to prenatal, intrapartal, and postpartal periods”

  • The ability to “claim the fetus as a child” after a heartbeat is detected to receive child tax credits and other credits or deductions on federal and state taxes.

  • Eligibility for home visits from a trained nurse from early pregnancy until the child's second birthday.

  • Automatic eligibility for public assistance programs, like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), until the child turns 18.

  • State reimbursement for funeral expenses if the woman or baby dies during the gestational period or during delivery.

  • State reimbursement for surgeries or physical therapy should the woman become disabled as a result of the pregnancy.

  • For the state to pay the medical expenses for children born with congenital abnormalities or disabilities for their entire life.

  • State-paid premiums, copays, and deductibles on medical, dental, and vision insurance until the child turns 18.

  • A fully funded South Carolina 529 College Savings Plan for the child.

  • State-paid child support, if the woman is unmarried and the father cannot be located or is unable to pay, or if the woman becomes pregnant through incest or rape.

A woman (or her estate) may pursue a civil action against the state for damages if she or her child dies during pregnancy or birth, or if she suffers a miscarriage.

Does the bill have any bearing on the baby’s father? In the case of an unmarried woman, if the biological father is known, child support must be paid retroactively to the date on which the fetal heartbeat was determined.

A biological father who willingly accrues over $5,000 in child support would be guilty of a misdemeanor and could be sentenced to up to three years in prison. However, a court may suspend his sentence if he undergoes a voluntary vasectomy and pays the arrearage of child support.

How will the state have women prove they wanted an abortion to be eligible? A woman would have to file an affidavit with the Department of Social Services stating that “she would have chosen to terminate the pregnancy and not give birth to the child” were it not for the fetal heartbeat law.

Dig deeper: Read Leah Savas’ report on abortion data from pro-life states.

Christina Grube

Christina Grube is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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