Editorial | South Carolina ‘stand your ground’ views reflect national dissonance

The following editorial appeared Sunday in The (Florence) Morning News:

Thanks to hoodies and loud music in Florida, “stand your ground” laws are under an intense microscope these days. Depending on personal tastes and sensibilities, the laws are generally viewed as perfectly reasonable or patently ridiculous.

Just to further illustrate the national dissonance, almost exactly half of the states (23) in the nation have a version of “stand your ground” on the books.

In March, state Rep. Harold Mitchell, D-Spartanburg – backed by former law enforcement officials and 17 other co-sponsors – introduced a bill to repeal South Carolina's version of the law.

On the other end of the spectrum, the South Carolina Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Thursday passed a measure to expand the law.

The “Pregnant Women's Protection Act” permits expectant women to use deadly force in defense of an unborn child, beginning at conception.

The state's current “stand your ground” law states the following:

“A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in another place where he has a right to be, including, but not limited to, his place of business, has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or another person or to prevent the commission of a violent crime as defined in Section 16-1-60.”

Republican lawmakers say that definition isn't broad enough to cover mothers-to-be, because it does not protect against a punch to the stomach.


Sen. Katrina Shealey, R-Lexington, was correct when she argued that no situation exists in which an unborn child would be threatened while the mother is not.

While the threat of violence faced by women, pregnant or not, is very real, especially considering the rate of domestic violence in South Carolina, permitting deadly force against someone who appears to be preparing a punch to the stomach is dubious at best.

More to the point, this “expansion” is just a repetition on the state's existing “stand your ground” language. It does zilch to actually strengthen existing anti-violence laws. It does not create additional funding for domestic violence service providers, and it does not increase resources to aid people in violent situations.

What it does do, and this is clearly the impetus for this legislative trickery, is grant personhood to fetuses by defining life at conception. We see this as nothing more than another step in the larger, strategic initiative on the part of some lawmakers to chip away at Roe v. Wade.

It's nothing new. Legislatures across the country have differing interpretations of Roe v. Wade.

But to back-door the message under the guise of protecting women is wrong.