Conservative Dissenters Block Abortion Limits in Nebraska, South Carolina
The failure of strict new abortion laws to advance in two conservative-dominated legislatures on the same day this week signaled a mounting fear among some Republicans that abortion bans could lead to political backlash.
A near-total ban on abortion failed Thursday in South Carolina, just hours before a six-week ban fizzled in Nebraska. Abortion remains legal in both states until 22 weeks of pregnancy.
In lengthy and often impassioned speeches on the South Carolina Senate floor, the state’s five female senators — three Republicans and two Democrats — decried what would have been a near-total ban on abortion. One, Sen. Sandy Senn (R), likened the implications to the dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” in which women are treated as property of the state.
Abortion laws, Senn said, “have always been, each and every one of them, about control — plain and simple. And in the Senate, the males have all the control.”
While it was women who helped defeat the measure in South Carolina, in Nebraska it was an 80-year-old man who stalled it. Sen. Merv Riepe, a longtime Republicanwho would have been the decisive vote to advance the bill to a final round of voting, abstained over his concern that the six-week ban might not give women enough time to know they are pregnant.
Riepe told the Flatwater Free Press that he was concerned the Nebraska bill would be viewed as a total ban. “At the end of the day, I need to look back and be able to say to myself, ‘Did you do the best?’” Riepe told the paper. “No group came to me, asking me to do this. This is of my own beliefs, my own commitments.”
Riepe’s move led to a personal callout from Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen (R).
“I call on Senator Merv Riepe to make a motion to reconsider and stand by the commitments to Life he has made in the past,” Pillen said in a statement.
Thursday’s events caught the attention of national advocates on both sides of the issue, who have been tracking the fast-changing abortion landscape since Roe v. Wade was overturned last June. The ruling triggered a series of abortion bans across the South and Midwest and brought one the country’s most emotional issues to the forefront of the political debate.