The following is but one of the many pieces of testimony that was given in opposition to S.527, the so-called Pregnant Women's Protection Act.
Dear Committee Members,
I am writing as a concerned citizen, advocate for the prevention of violence against women, and public health professional. I urge you to vote “NO” on S.527. S.527, the so-called “Pregnant Women’s Protection Act” is not about protecting pregnant women but about creating a law that would allow for the use of deadly physical force “against another person to protect her ‘unborn child’”. The “unborn child” in S.527 is then defined as “the offspring of human beings from conception until birth” whereby “conception” is undefined, as it is a medically inaccurate term, and is therefore left to broad interpretation. Herein lies one of the main problems of this proposed legislation. The established medical community around the world, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), is clear that the definition of pregnancy is when a fertilized egg has been implanted in the wall of a woman's uterus. Such vague language in the current law will have negative repercussions for women throughout the state. Intimate partner violence (IPV) and sexual assault are an epidemic in South Carolina. We currently rank number one in the nation for the number of women killed by men, according to the annual report released by the Violence Policy Center. Over 300,000 women each year experience intimate partner violence during pregnancy. These are well-documented facts, and are outlined in S.527. That something needs to be done to address these horrendous statistics and the realities that women survive each day is a point of agreement. If this bill were really focused on protecting pregnant women, resources would be dedicated both to preventing violence against women overall and ensuring that they have access to vital services, including prenatal care, during their pregnancies. Instead, we know from March of Dimes data that 1 of every 14 infants was born to a woman receiving late or no prenatal care in South Carolina. S.527 does NOT focus resources and legislative efforts strategically. It does NOT support increased funding for organizations that respond to and prevent violence against women. This leaves scores of women who reach out for assistance, including emergency shelter, housing transportation and legal representation, without the support that they need. According to the report “Domestic Violence Counts 2013: A 24-hour Census of Domestic Violence Shelters and Services,” the majority of unmet requests were from victims who had chosen to flee their abusers, and were seeking safe emergency or transitional housing. Across South Carolina, 13 staff positions were eliminated in 2012. Most of these positions were direct services, such as shelter or legal advocates, so there were fewer advocates to answer calls for help. In 2011, 61 females were murdered by males in South Carolina. For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 93 percent of female victims (52 out of 56) were murdered by someone they knew. Female intimate partners are more likely to be murdered with a firearm than all other means combined, and national data demonstrate the importance of reducing access to firearms in households affected by intimate partner violence. Yet in South Carolina, firearms are readily accessible and no permit is required to purchase rifles, shotguns, or handguns. There are a range of important actions that need to be taken to, in reality, protect pregnant women from violence. S.527 is not among them. I urge you to vote NO on S. 527.
Deborah Billings, PhD