More than two years after the controversial shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, the self-defense law that exonerated his killer is still in the news.

This time, South Carolina lawmakers are attempting to expand their stand-your-ground law to give pregnant women the right to use deadly force to protect their unborn children, reports The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C.

Critics argue that the bill is unnecessary because the state already has one of the country’s broadest self-defense laws.

But Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, said sometimes these crimes happen when the boyfriend is trying to harm the unborn child and not necessarily the mother.

“I can envision a factual situation where an assault does not rise to the level of great bodily injury, but yet can be effective in killing the unborn child,” Campsen said.

Women’s health advocates have voiced concern about the effect the bill’s language might have on abortion because it recognizes an unborn child from conception, according to an article in The State, a Columbia, S.C., newspaper.

Marcia Zug, a University of South Carolina law professor, said it is unlikely [the] bill … would provide a strong legal basis for banning abortion because it deals with self-defense, not abortion.

“I don’t really think that’s how you’re going to get (abortion banned) … but that’s certainly the purpose,” Zug said.

Pennsylvania’s stand-your-ground law, passed in June 2011, is similar to the Florida legislation that was at the center of the Trayvon Martin case, PublicSource reported in March 2012.

However, a person claiming self-defense in Pennsylvania cannot be doing something illegal themselves; they must have a reasonable belief that death or serious injury is imminent; and the other person must have displayed or used a lethal weapon.

Reach Halle Stockton at 412-315-0263 or

Do you feel more informed?

Help us inform people in the Pittsburgh region with more stories like this — support our nonprofit newsroom with a donation.

Halle is executive director, editor-in-chief of PublicSource. She has served as editor-in-chief since May 2022 after seven years as managing editor during which PublicSource won two consecutive international...