‘This was unexpected’: abortion bans blocked in Nebraska and South Carolina


Abortion rights campaigners won notable victories in Nebraska and South Carolina on Thursday, blocking a six-week ban in the first state and a near-total ban in the second.

In Lincoln, Nebraska, a vote to end debate so the bill could advance failed by one vote. Cheers erupted as opponents of the bill waved signs and chanted: “Whose house? Our house!”

Jo Giles, executive director of the Women’s Fund of Omaha, was brought to tears.

“Wow!” she said. “This was unexpected, but we’re so glad to have this win. We have fought so hard. This bill is not what the majority of women in this state wanted.”

In Columbia, South Carolina, senators rejected a bill that would have banned nearly all abortions in a state increasingly serving women across a region where Republicans have otherwise curtailed access.

Sandy Senn, a Republican senator, criticized the majority leader, Shane Massey, for repeatedly “taking us off a cliff on abortion”.

“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.

The Nebraska bill would ban abortion around the sixth week of pregnancy. It is now unlikely to move forward this year. Since 2010, Nebraska has banned abortions after the 20th week. The new bill would have banned abortion once cardiac activity can be detected. It failed to get the crucial 33rd vote when state senator Merv Riepe abstained. He was a cosigner but expressed concern a six-week ban might not give women time to know they were pregnant.

A former hospital administrator, Riepe introduced an amendment that would have extended the ban to 12 weeks and add to the list of exceptions fetal anomalies deemed incompatible with life.

Riepe warned Republicans to heed signs that abortion will galvanize women to vote them out. He offered up his own election last year, noting that in the primary he was 27 points ahead but after the US supreme court’s Dobbs decision in June, striking down Roe, his margin of victory in the general election against the same challenger, a Democrat who made abortion rights central to her campaign, dropped to just under five points.

“We must embrace the future of reproductive rights,” Riepe said.

The failed bill included exceptions for cases of rape, incest and medical emergencies and made exceptions for ectopic pregnancies and IVF procedures. It allowed for the removal of a fetus that has died in the womb. It did not ascribe criminal penalties to women or doctors. It would have subjected doctors to professional discipline.

The bill’s author, Joni Albrecht, called it “the friendliest pro-life bill out there”. But she rejected a compromise that would exempt women and medical professionals from criminal penalties.

“This is simply not necessary,” Albrecht said. She also rejected Riepe’s amendment, saying her six-week proposal “was a big compromise” from a total ban she failed to pass last year.

Among those celebrating outside the legislature was Pat Neal, 72, of Lincoln, who has been fighting for abortion rights since she received an abortion in 1973, the year the Roe v Wade decision guaranteed the right.

“This gives me hope for the future,” Neal said. “It gives me hope that the direction we’ve been seeing – across the country – could turn around.”

In South Carolina, three near-total bans have now failed in the Republican-led chamber since the Dobbs decision. Six Republicans helped defeat the bill this year.

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The chamber’s five women filibustered the proposal in speeches highlighting the male majority they criticized for pushing abortion over other issues.

Penry Gustafson spent over 30 minutes on Wednesday detailing bodily changes throughout pregnancy. She said millions of women had not been heard. She emphasized her “pro-life” position but said the proposal left “no room for empathy, reality or graciousness”.

The bill would have banned abortion with exceptions for rape or incest through the first trimester, fatal fetal anomalies confirmed by two physicians, and to save the patient’s life or health.

Mia McLeod, an independent, criticized leaders who prioritized the ban over efforts to make South Carolina the 49th state to allow harsher punishments for violent hate crimes.

McLeod, who shared during debate that she had been raped, said it was unfortunate that women must reveal intimate experiences to “enlighten and engage” men.

“Just as rape is about power and control, so is this total ban,” McLeod said. “Those who continue to push legislation like this are raping us again with their indifference, violating us again with their righteous indignation, taunting us again with their insatiable need to play God while they continue to pass laws that are ungodly.”

Abortion remains legal through 22 weeks in South Carolina, a status that has drawn patients throughout the increasingly restrictive south-east.

The number of out-of-state patients has risen since the state supreme court struck down a 2021 law.

Opponents of the total ban said it would prevent safe access to the procedure and worsen alarmingly high maternal death rates and poorer outcomes for Black women.

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( With inputs from : )


TheNewsCaravan News Desk

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