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WREN Testimony in Opposition to S. 988
by Ann Warner, WREN CEO on Jan 26, 2022
The following testimony was presented to the Senate Medical Affairs Subcommittee in writing on January 26, 2022.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit written testimony to this Committee. My name is Ann Warner and I am the CEO of the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with a mission to build a movement to advance the health, economic well-being, and rights of South Carolina’s women, girls, and their families. We have more than 40,000 people in our statewide network.
On behalf of our organization, I am asking committee members to vote in opposition to S.988. This bill is extreme and it is incredibly dangerous. If passed it would have catastrophic consequences for our society. S.988 uses language referring to a fertilized egg as a person, meaning that a fertilized egg has all the same rights and protections as a living, breathing human. Using personhood language has far-reaching implications, including:
- Making abortion illegal and forcing people to go through with pregnancy. Under this bill, abortion, and anyone who has one performs one or assists in one, could be charged under the criminal code, with charges including feticide, manslaughter, homicide, and more.
- Making IUDs, other contraceptive methods, and Plan B illegal because they could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.
- Making it impossible to get IVF in South Carolina because of the multiple fertilized eggs needed to produce a pregnancy. Donors and medical professionals who dispose of unused fertilized eggs could be charged with homicide.
- Criminalizing miscarriage and stillbirth and forcing those who experience them to undergo police questioning and possible criminal charges/imprisonment. (This has already happened in many states across the U.S.)
- Criminalizing any act a pregnant person takes that someone could consider as risky towards their pregnancy (ex. smoking, drinking, eating sushi, missing a doctor’s appointment). (This has already happened in S.C. in the case of Whitner v. State)
- Forcing pregnant people to undergo medical treatment they do not want. For example, a pregnant person could be tied down and forced to undergo a cesarean section if a doctor felt that was in the best interest of the fetus.
- Eliminating doctor/patient confidentiality and allowing doctors to report pregnant people to the police.
Additionally, the only exception S.988 includes is to prevent the death of the pregnant person, with no exceptions to preserve their health. A pregnant person has to be at the brink of death in order to access an abortion. This puts doctors in an impossible situation and could have lasting implications on their patients’ mental and physical health.
Passing this bill will not end abortion. It will, however, make pregnancy even more dangerous in South Carolina. It will cause the state to lose healthcare providers, putting healthcare further out of reach. It will cause economic hardship. It will cost our state untold millions of dollars that could be used on education, health care, or infrastructure. And by taking away individual freedoms and bodily autonomy, it will undermine our democratic and free society.
- First, even though proponents of this bill want to end abortions, there is no evidence that it will have this intended effect. The World Health Organization has concluded that restricting access to abortions does not reduce the number of abortions.i
- Furthermore, pregnancy is already a dangerous condition in South Carolina. South Carolina ranks 50th in the nation in healthcare for pregnant mothers and newborns. We rank 50th in number of midwives and Obstetricians / Gynecologists per capita.ii Our maternal and infant mortality rates are among the highest in the nation, and both are far higher for Black mothers and infants. Black mothers are more than three times more likely to die during pregnancy or in childbirth than white mothers.iii Extreme restrictions on abortion make pregnancy more dangerous. People denied abortions are more likely to experience serious complications from the end of pregnancy, including eclampsia and death. iv Any person of reproductive age could be harmed by this law, but the people who will suffer the most will be people who already face barriers to health care, including young people, people of color, people with disabilities, survivors of violence, people with low incomes, and people living in rural areas.
- This law would not only make abortion nearly impossible to provide; it would also make it far more difficult for physicians to provide the best care possible for their patients for a wide range of health conditions, like miscarriage, preeclampsia, diabetes or cancer, in the event that such care could indirectly lead to termination of a pregnancy. The fear of criminal prosecution could overshadow their best medical judgment and the wishes of their patients. In a state with one of the lowest rates of midwives and OB/GYNs per capita in the entire country, we simply cannot afford to make it even more difficult for doctors to do their jobs.
- Restricting abortion access also has economic consequences. According to peer-reviewed studies, over a five-year period, women refused an abortion are more likely to report not having enough money to cover basic living expenses such as housing, transportation and food. This ultimately leads to four times greater odds of living below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).v In addition, women denied abortion are: more likely to stay with abusive partners, more likely to suffer anxiety and loss of self-esteem in the short term after being denied abortion, and less likely to have aspirational life plans for the coming year. The studies also conclude that denying abortion has serious and negative implications for the children born of unwanted pregnancy, as well as for the existing children in the family. vi
- Finally, banning abortion and forcing pregnancy would insert the government into people’s private lives and would rob them of the freedom to make a most personal decision: whether, when, and how to become a parent. South Carolinians have the intellectual and moral capabilities to make these decisions about their health care and about their lives without government interference.
Passing this bill would have catastrophic consequences for our health, our economic security, and our fundamental rights.
I strongly urge you to vote in opposition of S.988. By opposing this bill, you will send a clear message to South Carolinians that you respect our judgment, our well-being, our freedom, and our lives.
Thank you for your consideration.