The Daily Gamecock

Activists gather outside SC Statehouse as the future of abortion is decided

<p>A crowd gathered outside the building where a special House committee met to decide the future of abortion in South Carolina. The committee heard testimony from the public July 7.</p>
A crowd gathered outside the building where a special House committee met to decide the future of abortion in South Carolina. The committee heard testimony from the public July 7.

A special S.C. House committee tasked with deciding the future of abortion in the state held the first of several hearings for the public on July 7 at the Blatt Building located next to the Statehouse.

Now that the constitutional right to abortion is eliminated, states are free to fully ban abortion. South Carolina currently has a six-week ban in place. Republican Gov. Henry McMaster has said frequently he would sign abortion laws more restrictive than the current six-week ban. He said he does not believe in exceptions for rape or incest in abortion restrictions. 

Outside the building, hundreds of abortion-rights and anti-abortion activists gathered to show support for their cause.

Annie Wirth, an anti-abortion activist, wore a black t-shirt with white lettering that read "EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL HUMANS" and held a cardboard sign with a picture of handcuffs and the message "CRIMINALIZE ABORTION." She stood in stark contrast to the hundreds of abortion-rights activists on the steps of the Statehouse.

<p>Annie Wirth and her husband call for abortion to be criminalized. Activists gathered outside the Statehouse July 7 to voice their opinion on the state's abortion laws.</p>
Annie Wirth and her husband call for abortion to be criminalized. Activists gathered outside the Statehouse July 7 to voice their opinion on the state's abortion laws.

"'I'm here to speak for the babies. To proclaim that we need to criminalize abortion not just regulate it," Wirth said. "Even if we do an all-out ban, but it doesn't criminalize it, babies will still be murdered in South Carolina because they can then just go across the state and have the babies murdered."

Wirth said she supports criminalizing anyone involved in an abortion, whether it be the pregnant person, the physician providing the abortion or someone driving the pregnant person to an abortion clinic.

Wirth said she did not think South Carolina lawmakers will listen to her call to criminalize abortion. She said there is too much money on both sides for even an all-out ban on abortion and that lawmakers will stay with the current six-week ban on abortion.

"Sadly, most conservatives, most Republicans, most pro-life people are content with the heartbeat bill six-week ban," Wirth said.

Many people testified at the hearing, some abortion-rights and some anti-abortion. Many of those who were anti-abortion quoted scripture from the Bible.

USC religious studies associate professor, Erin Roberts, who teaches the course "Introduction to Early Christianity," said the Bible has many different kinds of interpretations, none of which specifically endorse or condemn abortion.

"The Bible really doesn't talk about (abortion)," Roberts said. "If anything ... it gives warrant for (abortion) — there are moments in the Bible when children are killed and it's not necessarily spoken ill of."

Jessica Waldrop was among the crowd of abortion-rights activists gathered around the Statehouse steps at a Planned Parenthood event. 

"I'm just here because I'm worried about my rights and my daughters," Waldrop said as she wiped away tears. 

Waldrop said she had her doubts that lawmakers would listen to the abortion-rights speakers who testified at the hearing, and she did not feel like she was being heard by her lawmakers.

"I know I've tried to call my representative. He hadn't even called me back," Waldrop said. "I know that most of them just kind of have on their mind what they're gonna do. They're gonna follow the party line." 

A May 2022 Marist poll showed that 75% of Americans oppose making it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion. Even among the anti-abortion movement, this position is uncommon. In May, a group of anti-abortion groups came out against criminalizing abortion patients

Chris Smith was another anti-abortion activist standing outside the Blatt Building. Smith stood next to a man holding an American flag. He said he was there to stand for the life of everyone in the state, including the preborn.

"Being a Christian, and biblically speaking, I believe that life begins at conception," Smith said. "We are not going to use abortion in this state any longer as a form of birth control."

House lawmakers said they will continue to hear input from the public while they make their decision. A similar plan to take input from the public is being drafted by the Senate as well.


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