JANUARY 28, 2021 02:07 PM
During a tense debate over a bill that would stop virtually all abortions after a heartbeat is detectable, S.C. Sen. Mia McLeod revealed that she was the victim of sexual assault.
McLeod, a Richland Democrat and one of five women in the Senate, said she felt compelled to share her story after a week of debate over whether the “fetal heartbeat” abortion ban bill should have an exception for victims of rape.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, S.C. Sen. Richard Cash, R-Anderson, talked about how a fetus should not be aborted because of its fathers crimes and that some women who were survivors of rape later said they were grateful to have a child.
“I could barely contain myself,” McLeod said Thursday at the same podium from which Cash spoke the day before. “Clearly, he has never been raped. It’s probably safe to say that the 40 men in this chamber and the 100 in the House chamber haven’t either.”
“Well,” she continued in a steady voice, “I have.”
McLeod said she never told anyone about her assault, “not because I didn’t want to and definitely not because I didn’t need to, but because I was afraid to.”
“How dare you,” McLeod said.
McLeod criticized Republicans who used Christian rhetoric when justifying the abortion bill, S.1, which would require doctors to perform an ultrasound to look for a heartbeat and would prohibit them from performing an abortion if one is found unless the woman was a victim of rape or incest. The Richland Democrat said God gave humans the right to make their own decisions, but this bill takes choice away from women.
“It’s this bill that mocks God by taking away our rights, our liberties, our freedoms and our choices,” McLeod said. “And it’s this bill that’s about anything but life. After taking all of that, you have to take our dignity too?”
McLeod also criticized a portion of an amendment that was added to the bill Tuesday. The amendment would allow for exceptions in cases of rape or incest, but would require doctors to report if a patient claimed they were a victim of those crimes to the local sheriff’s office. McLeod pointed out that 45 of South Carolina’s 46 sheriffs are men.
Transfer of Power
“Does it make you feel good when women have to relive the horror, the unspeakable shame and the trauma of all that we’ve experienced at the hands of a man?” McLeod said. “Then, to add insult to injury, you force us to retell it to yet another man, this one with a badge. Just like rape. This bill is about power and control. Raped by a man. Now forced to report it to a man. Governed by a body of men.”
McLeod was indignant that a group of men was proposing and supporting this legislation.
“What I can’t seem to get past is the sheer audacity that this male-dominated legislature has to force woman and girls — to force women and girls — of this state to report this crime to our male dominated law enforcement agencies knowing that both are ill equipped to handle the magnitude of that responsibility,” McLeod said. “We’ve still got rape kits that haven’t been touched and rape cases that haven’t been solved from years ago.”
McLeod said if women don’t have the option to get a legal abortion, they’ll find other ways, sometimes dangerous ways, to get one.
“Without mental and emotional and financial support, many more women and girls won’t survive,” McLeod said. “They won’t survive the additional hell we’re about to put them through.”