South Carolina and Florida want to expand their death penalty statutes


Bucking a trend of decreasing support for the death penalty in the United States, Republican-dominated legislatures in South Carolina and Florida are attempting to expand their states’ use of capital punishment.

In South Carolina, Republican lawmakers introduced a bill that would make women who have an abortion subject to the death penalty. The “South Carolina Prenatal Equal Protection Act of 2023” removes all exceptions, including rape, the health of the pregnant woman, and the fetus’s health. The bill also specifies that the law would include “an unborn child at every stage of development from fertilization until birth.”

(The bill originally had 24 co-sponsors, but as news of its extremism spread, nine of the cosponsors withdrew their support, NBC News reported.)

And Republican legislators in Florida filed a bill that would expand capital punishment for crimes other than murder, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Kennedy v. Louisiana (2008) that the death penalty for any crime other than homicide is unconstitutional. It would allow adults convicted of sexually battering children younger than 12 to be charged with a capital crime, the Tampa Bay Times reports. The bill’s sponsors, who are both Republicans, were inspired by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who believes this is an opportune time to challenge the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2008 decision, saying, “We do not believe the Supreme Court, in its current iteration, would uphold it, and so we are going to be exploring ways to facilitate some capital trials if you have the worst of the worst.” 

This proposed legislation comes on the heels of another bill introduced by Florida lawmakers earlier this year that would lower the threshold for a death verdict from a unanimous jury to an 8 – 4 vote. This, too, is a DeSantis proposal, which he suggested in November when Nikolas Cruz, convicted of the Parkland school shooting, was sentenced to life instead of death when three jurors voted against death. 

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