Curb Abortion Culture War by Electing More Women to State Senate
This opinion piece was originally published by the City Paper Editorial Board for Charleston City Paper
One sure-fire way to put a sock in the continuing culture war over abortion is for more women to be elected to the state Senate.
Five women senators — three Republicans, one independent and one Democrat — recently joined with Democrats and three Republican men to thwart a near-total abortion ban backed by two dozen Republican senators and the top-heavy GOP House. Had the five women not stood up to say “don’t tell us what to do with our bodies,” South Carolina would be in a far worse place over the contentious issue of abortion.
Recent actions by Republicans Sandy Senn of Charleston, Katrina Shealy of Lexington and Penny Gustafson of Camden, independent Mia McLeod of Columbia and Democrat Margie Bright Matthews of Walterboro caused the near-total ban to fail in the Senate. And that forced House Republicans to backtrack and accept something akin to a six-week ban passed earlier this year by the Senate. (The state Supreme Court found a similar six-week ban to be an unconstitutional invasion of privacy earlier this year.)
If the General Assembly ends up approving a six-week ban in a special session, advocates for women’s reproductive rights will quickly sue, likely forcing the issue back to the state Supreme Court. In other words, the issue isn’t going away.
But one way to chill future abortion culture battles is to elect more reasonable women to the state Senate, particularly in any of the 24 seats where Republican men with a narrow political agenda didn’t listen to women, preferring to take away their choices on what to do with their bodies.
Here are the Republican men whose seats should be challenged by women candidates in 2024. If four or five can be flipped from right wing anti-choice Republicans to more reasonable Republican, Democratic or independent senators, maybe the continuing culture war over abortion will ebb — because women will buffer nutty debates over the issue.
Male Republican senators who should be uncomfortable about their hard right abortion position include (in alphabetical order): Brian Adams of Goose Creek; Thomas Alexander of Walhalla; Sean Bennett of Summerville; Chip Campsen of Mount Pleasant; Richard Cash of Piedmont; Wes Climer of Rock Hill; Tom Corbin of Greenville; Ronnie Cromer of Prosperity, Mike Gambrell of Anderson; Billy Garrett of Greenwood; Stephen Goldfinch of Murrells Inlet; Larry Grooms of Bonneau; Michael Johnson of Fort Mill; Josh Kimbrell of Spartanburg; Dwight Loftis of Greenville; Shane Martin of Pauline; Shane Massey of Edgefield; Harvey Peeler of Gaffney; Mike Reichenbach of Florence; Rex Rice of Easley; Scott Talley of Spartanburg; Ross Turner of Greenville; Danny Verdin of Laurens; and Tom Young of Aiken.
For anyone keeping a scorecard, the 10 most vulnerable seats among the 24 above may be those held by Adams (District 44); Bennett (38); Campsen (43); Climer (15); Cromer (18); Johnson (16); Kimbrell (11); Reichenbach (31); Talley (12); and Turner (8).
Almost two thirds of South Carolinians believe in reasonable access to abortion. Let’s elect more women to reflect the majority, not the hard-right minority that has hijacked the Republican Party.