Open Letter on Personhood and Dismemberment Legislation

by Senator Richard Cash | 4/29/18

On Thursday, April 26th, the SC Senate voted to set H3548 (Dismemberment) to special order so that it can be brought to the floor for debate. This came after a vote for special order failed on Wednesday. I voted in the affirmative both times. However, since I will be offering amendments to H3548, including a Personhood amendment, I believe it is appropriate for me to explain my stance on H3548 to pro-lifers. 

Since I arrived in the SC Senate, I have made it clear that my number one priority is to end the killing of unborn babies, and that I believe that the Personhood bill is the best way forward toward that objective. I founded Personhood SC in 2015 with this in mind and anyone who is familiar with my campaign for office knows that although I talked about all the issues on the table, I always referenced ending the killing of unborn babies if I was asked what the most important issue was or what my highest priority was. There is simply nothing more important than ending the shedding of innocent blood and establishing justice for unborn babies.

My interest in Personhood legislation did not begin in 2015, but goes all the way back to 1998 and the first Personhood bill in SC. Along with a pastor, I met with Sen. Mike Fair and the late Rep. Terry Haskins and asked them to sponsor Personhood. They did, and similar bills have been introduced many times since then. 

However, 20 years have gone by, and the SC Senate has yet to bring a Personhood bill to the floor. Many other pro-life bills have been acted on, but not Personhood. Why? Well, most pro-life bills are incremental in nature and seek to slowly chip away at abortion rights, whereas Personhood goes straight to the fundamental issues and seeks to abolish abortion as soon as possible. Incremental bills provide an easy vote for pro-life politicians, whereas Personhood presents a hard vote on the most difficult aspects of the debate. 

Over the past 20 years, many incremental bills have been passed, and undoubtedly lives have been saved as a result. However, during that same time period over 130,000 unborn babies have been killed by abortion in SC. The current incremental bill, Dismemberment, will apply to less than one percent of abortions; only 22 abortions out of the 5,736 that took place in 2016 were done by dismemberment. Surely something more is needed.

This brings me to the current dilemma: Dismemberment has been set for special order while Personhood has not. Over the past two months I have expressed some concerns about the Dismemberment bill. One problem is that while the bill would prevent the dismemberment of living babies, it does not prevent the abortionist from killing the baby via injection and then dismembering the baby, nor does it prevent the abortionist from killing the same baby by some other method. This and other flaws in the bill exist because it is written to intentionally avoid a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade in the hope of being upheld by the courts. Personhood, meanwhile, is written to challenge the fundamental error of Roe v. Wade and provide a basis to overturn it. While Dismemberment presents a great opportunity to talk about the humanity of the unborn baby, it might not save a single baby from being killed.

My concerns about the Dismemberment bill should not be taken as criticism of its proponents. Like me, they are very committed and sincere in their pro-life work. We share the same goal of abolishing human abortion, and we believe in the same principles of personhood. We simply disagree on some aspects of strategy. 

To try and accommodate both pro-life bills, back in March I suggested to Republican Senate members and supporters of the Dismemberment bill, that the best approach would be to bring both Dismemberment and Personhood to the floor and let them be voted on without amendment. I appealed for help to accomplish this and made it clear that if both bills were brought forward, I would not object to Dismemberment when it was being debated. Because of what I consider to be fatal flaws, I would not vote for it as written, but neither would I vote against it. 

During that time, however, I also made it clear that if Personhood, which has been out of committee since February, was pushed aside I would not sit quietly. The stakes are too high not to attempt to pass Personhood, challenge Roe v. Wade, and end the killing of all unborn babies. At this time, amending the Dismemberment bill is the only possible way to do that. In 2016, 5,736 unborn babies were killed in the womb in SC, including 22 by dismemberment. When the debate begins, I intend to speak on behalf of all 5,736 of those precious lives.

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