He was called a coward. A slut shamer. A hypocrite.

As the House of Representatives spent hours debating a controversial Wednesday budget amendment by state Rep. John McCravy, R-Greenwood, that called for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, a brutal floor debate erupted around him that even caused Speaker Jay Lucas to ask for a more respectful tone.

“They called me a coward. They called me a woman-hater. They called me a slavery lover. The most vile things,” McCravy said on Thursday.

A champion of the General Assembly’s pro-life movement, McCravy had strong words for Planned Parenthood and women who choose to get an abortion.

“I don’t believe a woman has a right to murder a child, and that’s how I see it,” he said during floor debate. “I have a disagreement with some people in this room that rhetoric is not going to resolve.”

Hours after introducing the amendment, it was approved on a 66-26 vote. But the discourse that preceded it was nearly unprecedented.

“I have never seen anything like this before in my life,” freshman state Rep. Rosalyn Henderson-Myers, a Spartanburg Democrat, said.

House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, who spent two years as a special prosecutor in the Fifth Solicitors’ Office, tore into McCravy for calling women who get abortions murderers, sharing graphic testimony about victims of rape and incest – including one case of a girl holding her foster father’s semen in her mouth and depositing it in a cup at school so authorities could prove it belonged to her caretaker.

“Somehow, it’s OK for men to decide what happens to women. Mr. McCravy, I assure you I don’t know more than these women do. I’ve never been raped, my father never got on top of me and inserted his penis inside of me and impregnate me and if he did, I would not expect a legislator to call me names,” he said. “The insensitivity with which you stand here and insult and insinuate that these women are simply murderers shows intellectual dishonesty and an intellectual laziness with which you know you can do better.”

McCravy had allies, including state Rep. Garry Smith of Simpsonville, who offered an emotional defense of the Greenwood lawmaker’s proposal.

“You should not take another life because something was done wrong to you. Rape is bad, yes, rape is horrendous, incest is horrendous, but you don’t compound it by taking another life, that is not right, that is not choice,” Smith said.

Democrat Gilda Cobb-Hunter, of Orangeburg, is one of the longest-serving General Assembly members. She said the hourslong fight over whether to defund Planned Parenthood was based on political optics – after calling McCravy a coward for not taking questions on his amendment.

“You stand up and you talk about life. I want to talk about the quality of life. What about the children you love in the womb? That love does not seem to transfer. You come in here with your cloak of hypocrisy and talk about life and how cherished it should be, and yet vote after vote after vote on any issue that helps the least of these, that charity seems to disappear,” she said. “There are a lot of people out here now who are no longer falling for the okey-doke. Who are looking beneath that cloak of Christianity and seeing some of you Christians and what you do to these little girls and boys. People know what you’re doing.”

The exchanges got so personal that Lucas intervened at one point.

“I’ve heard enough from both sides of this issue where I’ve had a number of members come up to me and say they’re offended. You put up an amendment like this, you’re going to catch some criticism and I can’t stop that, but I only see ladies and gentlemen, I was taught not to see color and I would hope nobody in this room does,” he said.

McCravy said the blistering remarks from opponents of his amendment didn’t bother him.

“I don’t talk for television like some of them running for governor or high offices. It’s because I’m passionate about this issue and I care about it,” he said.

Contact staff writer Adam Benson at 864-943-5650 or on Twitter @ABensonIJ.