S.C.’s 5 Female Statehouse Senators Renew Long-Shot Call for Ballot Question on Abortion
South Carolina’s five female senators in the Statehouse are challenging the Legislature’s Republican leaders to let voters decide directly whether the state constitution should guarantee abortion rights.
But even supporters of the idea doubt their renewed push for a ballot question stands much of a chance, as previous attempts never came close to the supermajority of votes necessary.
Still, they’re undeterred in trying again next year.
“All five of us are disappointed, but that will not change what has happened. We must try to correct this wrong,” reads an Aug. 25 statement signed by Sens. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington; Margie Bright Matthews, D-Walterboro; Mia McLeod, I-Columbia; Sandy Senn, R-Charleston; and Penry Gustafson, R-Camden.
“An imbalanced political body should not decide the fate of South Carolina’s women and girls,” wrote the five females in a chamber with 41 men.
“Likewise, judicial elections and rulings should never be politicized,” they continued. “Instead, we believe these deeply personal decisions are best left to those who are most impacted. We trust the people of South Carolina and do not believe our judgment is superior to theirs.”
The renewed push comes days after the state Supreme Court’s Aug. 23 ruling upheld the so-called “fetal heartbeat” law and sent South Carolina women beyond six weeks pregnant scrambling to find an appointment where it’s legal.
The 4-1 decision by the newly all-male high court prompted the Senate’s “sister senators,” as they call themselves, to jointly issue their call to action. The women accused the high court of soiling itself with an “unexplainable, completely contradictory opinion” seven months after justices rejected the last six-week ban.
The five will jointly introduce a resolution for a November 2024 referendum, Senn told The Post and Courier. Lawmakers return to Columbia in January.
In South Carolina, only the Legislature can put a question on general election ballots, and doing so requires approval by two-thirds of both the House and Senate.