Abortion bans knocked down in Nebraska and South Carolina
A handful of Republican state senators in both South Carolina and Nebraska defected from their party late Thursday to derail proposed near-total bans on abortion.
In South Carolina, all five of the chamber’s female lawmakers, including three Republicans, united to lead a filibuster against the bill that would have banned abortion from conception.
Republican Senator Sandy Senn criticized Majority Leader Shane Massey for repeatedly "taking us off a cliff on abortion" with the proposed ban that would have been one of the strictest ones in the nation.
"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," Senn said.
Halfway across the nation in Nebraska, a single male Republican lawmaker torpedoed a bill to ban virtually all abortions from six weeks after conception.
Senator Merv Riepe, a previous supporter, abstained from the bill after expressing concern that women might not know they were pregnant.
When he received pushback from fellow anti-abortion Republicans, Riepe warned his conservative colleagues to listen to women demanding a more flexible approach.
"We must embrace the future of reproductive rights," Riepe said.
Abortion rights debate has Republicans in a hard place
The twin defeats for anti-abortion forces signal that Republicans are likely to continue to struggle with the abortion issue after the Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The decision gave the green light for states to tighten restrictions on abortion as they see fit, opening the floodgates to ever-stricter laws in GOP-run states, where Republican lawmakers say life begins at conception and abortion is akin to murder.
But large majorities of Americans support abortion rights, even in red states, causing a major headache for the GOP with moderate Republicans and women seeking to tap the brakes on the crusade before it leads to more political setbacks.
Anger over rolling back abortion rights proved a major impetus for Democrats in special elections and the midterm elections with abortion rights referendums driving a sweep in the key battleground state of Michigan.
A spreading fight over medication abortion has also raised the political temperature over abortion rights nationwide, in both red states and blue states like New York.
Some Republican states have already banned use of the medication and receiving it through the mail.
But if the ban is eventually upheld it would apply in blue states, even though the top court last year said it intended to allow the states to decide the issue.
On both abortion issues, Republicans are caught in a vice. The crackdowns have energized women and abortion rights voters who had previously been complacent about the possibility of those rights being rolled back nationwide.
Cover photo: MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP