South Carolina and Nebraska, two conservative states that have been pushing to ban abortion, on Thursday both failed to pass new bills prohibiting the procedure, preserving wide access to abortion in those states and handing surprise victories to abortion rights advocates.
In Nebraska, a bill to ban most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy — a strict prohibition that would outlaw the procedure before most women know they are pregnant — failed to advance in the state legislature, making it unlikely to move forward for the remainder of this year’s legislative session.
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The bill fell one vote short of the 33 needed in order to advance, after two senators did not vote. Gov. Jim Pillen, a Republican who had supported the bill, said after the vote that it was “unacceptable for senators to be present not voting on such a momentous vote.” Pillen, who described himself as “a staunch defender of life” said he was “profoundly disappointed” by the outcome.
In South Carolina, the senate rejected a bill that would ban most abortions in the state. The bill had already been passed by the House, but the Senate’s five women — three of whom are Republicans — opposed the bill and spoke forcefully against it.
Why It Matters
The bills, if they had passed, were likely to be signed into law by Republican governors, and would have been a significant change for state residents. Currently, both South Carolina and Nebraska allow abortion up to around 22 weeks.
“Nebraska politicians today voted to keep private health care decisions where they belong — in the exam room between a doctor and their patient,” said Andi Curry Grubb, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Nebraska.
Both states would have joined a growing list of Republican-dominated states with severe restrictions on abortion. So far, 14 states have active bans on nearly all abortions, though some allow exceptions for rape and danger to the life of the mother. Georgia and Florida also ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, but Florida’s ban is on hold pending a court challenge.
South Carolina has become a destination for women seeking abortions as its Southern neighbors have shut down access to abortion. The proposed ban would have prohibited abortion at all stages of pregnancy, with narrow exceptions for rape and incest before 12 weeks.
During discussion of the bill, state Sen. Mia McLeod, an independent, appealed to her colleagues to protect the rights of women and girls.
“If this bill passes, a baby will be forced to carry and deliver another baby, even if it costs her her life,” she said.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to abortion in its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, effectively sending the issue of regulation back to individual states. This year alone, more than 600 abortion-related bills have been proposed in the states. Slightly more than half of them aim to restrict access to the procedure.
Republicans, however, have struggled to reach consensus on just how far abortion restrictions ought to go, and some in the GOP see the issue as a political liability after midterm losses.
With a few weeks left in its session, South Carolina could still pass an abortion ban.
The Senate has already passed a six-week ban, which the House could take up. Both chambers have been unable to reach agreement on a ban. And the state’s Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that its Constitution includes the right to abortion, but said the state still had an interest in regulating the procedure.
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