Strict abortion bans died in the South Carolina and Nebraska state legislatures, a rare bit of good news in the Republican-led assault on reproductive rights. And in both states, Republican dissenters doomed the abortion bans.
The two bills would have banned abortion after six weeks, before many people even know they are pregnant, with few exceptions. Both measures failed to overcome a filibuster in the state Senates. Abortion is now still legal in South Carolina and Nebraska until 22 weeks, although both states have multiple restrictions, such as a mandatory 24-hour waiting period and biased counseling aimed at running out the clock.
In South Carolina, the only female senators—three Republicans, one Democrat, and one independent—led the filibuster. “Abortion laws have always been, each and every one of them, about control,” said Republican Sandy Senn. “And in the Senate, the males all have control. We the women have not asked for … nor do we want your protection. We don’t need it.”
She said the abortion ban “insulted” women, adding, “The only thing that we can do when you all, you men in the chamber, metaphorically keep slapping women by raising abortion again and again and again, is for us to slap you back with our words.”
The chamber ultimately voted 22–21 on Thursday to delay the bill until next year. The measure is unlikely to make it back to the floor: There are not enough days in the current legislative session for the House to re-pass it, and the Senate’s Republican majority leader has indicated they are unlikely to try and pass the bill again when it’s clear they don’t have the support.
The South Carolina measure was similar to a six-week trigger ban that went into effect after Roe v. Wade was overturned. The state Supreme Court blocked that law in January, and the new bill was an attempt to circumvent the ruling.
The Nebraska Senate also failed to overcome a filibuster on Thursday, with senators voting 32–15 to end debate on the bill—just one vote short. Two senators, Republican Merv Riepe and Democrat Justin Wayne, voted “present.” The two are considered swing votes should this bill be revived, as both say they are “pro-life.”
Wayne did not explain his vote, but Riepe, a former hospital administrator, had said he would only support the bill if it was amended to ban abortion at 12 weeks. He said the six-week window was too short, citing arguments from doctors he has known for decades, and warned that the measure was too extreme to be popular among voters.
Riepe is one of the few Republicans who is actually (sort of) paying attention to current abortion events. About two-thirds of Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to the Pew Research Center. A new study from the center also shows that 43 percent of people who live in states where abortion is restricted think it should be easier for someone to access the procedure in the area where they live, compared to just 31 percent in 2019.
Abortion rights win elections. Every time an abortion-related issue has been on the ballot, the people vote in favor of protecting reproductive rights, not taking them away. It seems like at least a handful of Republicans are finally taking heed.