AU Opposes S.C. Legislation On When Life Begins

Americans United has announced opposition to a measure introduced in the South Carolina legislature that attempts to define when life begins, asserting that the proposal would write theological concepts into law.

The bill (H. 3526), would have the effect of prohibiting abortion and the use of emergency contraceptives within the state, AU argues. The group added that the bill runs afoul of church-state separation because it relies on one particular religious doctrine in declaring that life begins at the moment of fertilization.

The measure is so strict, AU argued in a February letter to Greg Delleny, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Constitutional Laws, that it would prohibit abortions in all circumstances, even in the case of rape or incest or when the woman’s life is at risk.

AU’s letter asserts that the bill, which has more than 50 cosponsors in the House of Representatives, violates the rights of South Carolinians who adopt different religious doctrines of when human life begins. The letter also indicates that the bill violates church-state separation by allowing the government to favor a particular religious belief over others.

“[This bill] endorses religion by enshrining a particular religious doctrine of when life begins into law,” AU’s letter states. “Theological teachings cannot be the basis of legislation without running afoul of the state and federal constitutions.”

The letter was signed by AU State Legislative Counsel Dena S. Sher as well as Rick Hahnenberg, president of the Upstate South Carolina AU Chapter and the Rev. Dr. Robert M. Knight, president of the Charleston AU Chapter.