My name is Madeleine Herron, and I am a pro-life Charleston resident. Although I am not a Republican myself, I was initially excited to learn that my district is represented by Republican Senator Sandy Senn, as she also calls herself pro-life.
I belong to a generation that is increasingly aware of the need to address human rights violations in our society, and is therefore increasingly trending pro-life. We are ready for legislation to reflect our concern for disenfranchised members of our society. I am ready to see my SC State Senator accurately represent that concern by helping to enact the Personhood Act of South Carolina, a bill that would ensure the legal protection of all human beings from their earliest stages of life.
As the Personhood Act of South Carolina (S.217) was brought to the SC Senate Judiciary Committee for discussion and votes on February 20, I was hopeful that Senator Senn would vote in favor of it. She opted instead to abstain from voting, saying that she had some reservations about the bill in its current form, but did not want to vote against a pro-life measure. She voted in favor of the proposed amendment to improve the bill.
I am incredibly thankful that Senator Senn abstained from voting against S.217 in the judiciary committee meeting, as her abstention allowed the bill to move to the Senate floor for further discussion and refinement. I am also thankful for Senator Senn’s commitment to engaging in ongoing dialogue with her constituents on this extremely important issue, and for her openness in updating her constituents on her position on the bill, as well as her reasons for holding that position.
However, I would like to address some concerns I have with Senator Senn’s most recent update concerning S.217, wherein she states that this bill will likely not have her vote going forward.
First, I find Senator Senn’s ongoing reluctance to support this bill quite surprising, considering that she ran—and was elected—on the South Carolina GOP platform, which explicitly and unapologetically opposes abortion. The platform states that “all human life, born and unborn, has intrinsic worth. We believe that the unborn and the new born child have a fundamental right to life which must not be infringed. Accordingly, we believe that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protection should apply to unborn children. We support the reversal of Roe v. Wade through judicial action or through passage of a Constitutional Human Life Amendment […] The Party believes that the right to life, as stated in the Declaration of Independence and affirmed in the Constitution, is inalienable and foundational. Without the right to life there can be no other right. Therefore, the Party supports vigorous legal protection of the vulnerable at all stages of life.”
While I do not expect legislators to agree with every statement in their party platform, the right to life for humans at all stages of development and the commitment to pass legislation to end abortion are absolutely foundational for the Republican party. Voting against legislation that upholds those values would indicate a clear departure from a core value of the platform on which Senator Senn ran, was elected, and, I assume, would like to run again. What Senator Senn calls “far overboard,” her party regards as fundamental, and voting in opposition to a bill of this sort does not seem appropriate for someone who calls themselves a pro-life Republican.
Senator Senn has repeatedly expressed her concern that the bill is unconstitutional. Perhaps she means that it is unconstitutional in the same sense that challenging Dredd Scott v. Sanford or Plessy v. Ferguson was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has reversed its own rulings over 200 times, and I’m sure Senator Senn would agree that this is a positive thing in instances where the original ruling is enabling the oppression of the marginalized.
I believe that Allan E. Parker, Jr., president of the Justice Foundation, said it best in his testimony in support of S.217: “Having analyzed S.217, it is my conclusion that the Bill is constitutional under the U.S. Constitution. The United States Constitution in both the 5th and 14th Amendment says that no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law. Since the scientific evidence is quite clear now that a child in the womb is a human being from the moment of fertilization, it is clear that such a human being is a person who should be entitled to the full legal protection of the law with respect to their right to life at a very minimum. […] Opinions of the Supreme Court are interpretations of the Constitution. They are applications of the Constitution to particular factual situations. Facts can change. They are not the Constitution nor are they laws of the United States in the sense that federal statutes are laws of the United States. Supreme Court decisions are binding on the parties to a case or controversy. The Supreme Court is not infallible.”
It is my hope that Senator Senn and all others who are able to help create state laws will use their positions to correct injustices at the state level regardless of what is currently upheld by the Supreme Court.
Another reason that Senator Senn has cited for not supporting the bill is that it does not make an exception for cases in which a child was conceived in rape or incest. This denial of personhood to a specific class of human beings based on the circumstances of their conception constitutes a human rights violation and stands in direct opposition to the official position of Senator Senn’s political party; namely that the unborn child has “a fundamental right to life which must not be infringed” and that “the Fourteenth Amendment’s protection should apply to unborn children.”
It is troubling to witness Senator Senn’s willingness to withhold protection of a human being’s most basic unalienable rights because of the circumstances under which they were conceived. If Senator Senn knows of an argument that demonstrates that children conceived in tragic circumstances are somehow less human or less deserving of protection than other preborn children, I would certainly like to hear it.
Senator Senn’s two other objections to the bill in her latest update have me quite confused, as both issues she mentions have been resolved by the amendment for which she personally voted during the judiciary committee meeting.
The amendment stipulates: “Nothing in this article shall be construed to prohibit a licensed physician from performing a medical procedure or providing medical treatment designed or intended to prevent the death of a pregnant woman.” However, Senator Senn claims that “doctors’ hands will be tied in many instances of danger to the mother.” If Senator Senn truly does not want to oppose a pro-life measure, as she claimed at the committee meeting, it would behoove her to provide some examples of scenarios in which doctors’ hands would be tied such that their pregnant patients would be in danger due to this bill. Otherwise, she should report accurately regarding the bill, and the amendment for which she voted.
The amendment also states that, “Nothing in this article shall be construed to prohibit in vitro fertilization or assisted reproductive technology.” Yet, Senator Senn continues to object to the bill, claiming that, “the bill in its current form, despite the amendment, would still place in vitro fertilization clinics in danger because the clinics would not be allowed to dispose of fertilized eggs as those eggs would be considered human beings with constitutional rights if this bill passes.”
Senator Senn is unclear as to why she thinks IVF clinics would be “in danger” should the bill be passed, thus preventing these clinics from discarding unwanted embryos. This is another instance in which a specific example is warranted to demonstrate why this would be true. If Senator Senn’s concern is that IVF clinics would suffer financially from having to store unwanted embryos, I would urge her to become familiar with the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The NEDC accepts, transports, and stores unwanted embryos from IVF clinics at no cost to the clinics or patients. They also work to match embryos with adoptive parents, many of whom cannot otherwise have children, and facilitate the transfer procedure so that these embryos can grow and be born into a loving home.
The NEDC is ready to receive and care for the unwanted embryos of IVF patients in South Carolina, with no expense to the patients, the IVF clinic, or the state. Many infertile couples will be able to experience the joys of parenthood as a result of embryo adoption, and, far from being in danger because of this, IVF clinics will be able to make a positive contribution to that end.
But first, we must ensure that it is unthinkable and illegal to destroy these precious children in their earliest stages of life at the IVF clinics. This is precisely what passing S.217 would do.
Approximately 6,000 children are killed by abortion annually in South Carolina, along with the innumerable children conceived via IVF procedures and then destroyed. Those who would call themselves pro-life must no longer be content with a slight reduction in the amount of killings by passing incremental abortion restrictions, and those who are in a position to help end it completely must answer for their continued allowance of the slaughter of innocents.
I urge Senator Senn to act in accordance with her claim that she is pro-life and follow the example of Catherine Templeton, another respected, politically active Charleston woman who recently changed her mind about this bill and now fully supports it. An end to this great injustice is long overdue.