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  • Writer's pictureJohn Lantos

Sister Senators and South Carolina Supremes

Last week, I wrote about the Republican women who stopped a life-begins-at-conception ban on abortions in South Carolina. They have been consistently stopping the passage of that bill, a bill that already passed the SC House, by filibustering it. They are not your typical pro-choice liberals. Some favor a bill that would ban abortion after six weeks. The population of SC is divided on some issues, quite unified on others. The vast majority believe that termination of pregnancy should be legal when the pregnancy threatens a woman’s life or health or when the pregnancy is the result of rape. Two-thirds think it should be legal “if the baby was likely to be born with severe disabilities or health problems.” But fewer than half think it should be available “for any reason.”

The South Carolina Supreme Court recently ruled that a ban on all abortions after six weeks of gestation was unconstitutional. They relied on the following provision in the SC Constitution that says, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures and unreasonable invasions of privacy shall not be violated.” The Court’s decision is a textbook discussion of the meaning of “a right to privacy.”

They discuss other State Constitutions – Alaska, Minnesota, Florida – that have explicit privacy provisions. They conclude that a total ban on abortion would leave no room for women from making their own medical decisions. This, they say, “cannot be deemed a reasonable restriction on privacy.” As a result of the decision, abortion remains legal in SC until 22 weeks of gestation, even as the legislature fights about bills to ban it. As a result, many women are traveling to SC for abortions.

Gallup reports that the vast majority of Americans favor access to abortion and that, after the Dobbs decision, support increased among both women and men, among both Republicans and Democrats, and among both Catholics and Protestants

Today, the NYT has an analysis of the reasoning that informs the SC women Senators who oppose the current draconian abortion bans. Some quotes:

“Pro-life” and “pro-choice” have proven muddy if not increasingly meaningless distinctions. And views on abortion have turned out to be far more nuanced than a red/blue divide.”

“The three Republican women are white, the two others Black, and all describe themselves holding deep religious faith. They are all mothers, and several have fostered children or supported relatives or other young people through college, and they say their experience of pregnancy informs their views on abortion.

“Ms. Gustafson and Ms. Senn would prefer to restrict abortion after the first trimester, with exceptions. Ms. Shealy said if it were up to her personally, she would leave the decision to women, their partners, and their doctors: “Women know what’s best for their bodies.”

“We the women have not asked for, nor do we want, your protection,” she said, addressing her male colleagues on the floor, wearing flip flops for comfort during the filibuster. “We don’t need it. We don’t buy into the ruse that what you really want is to take care of us.”

The post-Dobbs political world has been full of surprises. When Roe v. Wade was the law of the land, Republican legislators who could posture and pass bans that would never take effect. Such stances were popular and distorted politics because anti-abortion sentiments tracked with racism, sexism, and other disparaging attitudes towards powerless minorities. Now the laws have consequences and they turn out to not be so popular. We will see if the good people of South Carolina take their beliefs on these issues into polling booths next November.

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