As North Dakota Protects Life, Republicans in South Carolina and Nebraska Bolt to Save Abortion

AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Monday, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum signed a fetal heartbeat law that essentially outlaws all abortions in that state after six weeks. Unfortunately, as the North Dakota legislature and Governor Burgum were doing what needed to be done, two other allegedly conservative state legislatures had an opportunity to strike a blow against the pagan practice of infanticide and declined to do so.

Karens Win in South Carolina

In South Carolina, a bill that would have banned nearly all abortions failed to clear the state senate by a 22-21 vote. The bill failed because three Republican women senators voted in favor of killing babies. Here’s a taste of the intellectual firepower that keeps this abhorrent practice legal in South Carolina.

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.”

This is like something a not-very-bright high school student or a Ph.D. candidate in gender studies would come up with. But she had more to contribute:

“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.

Senn’s vote was motivated more by cowardice than principle. She won her last election by 1.8 percentage points. The same applies to Penry Gustafson, who won by 2.1 points. While their cowardice was apparent, you can’t help but notice that the partisan makeup of the South Carolina Senate is 30R-15D-1I, and the only way the votes of these two Karens mattered was because at least two other Republicans crossed the aisle. Five couldn’t be bothered to show up.


Here are those heroes in action.

As the South Carolina Supreme Court discovered a previously unheard-of right to privacy in the state constitution, abortion is now legal in South Carolina up until 22 weeks.

Cowardice Keeps Abortion Safe in Nebraska

In Nebraska, where abortion is legal through the 20th week of pregnancy, a heartbeat bill was killed when a cloture vote to break a filibuster failed by a single vote, 32-15, when one member, 80-year-old Merv Riepe, abstained.

We rarely encounter a grown man proudly announcing, “I’m a p***y,” but here we have it.

Riepe admitted that he was abstaining because he was afraid of being voted out of office.

When he received pushback from fellow Republicans on the amendment, Riepe took to the mic to warn his conservative colleagues that they should heed signs that abortion will galvanize women to vote them out of office. He offered up his own election last year as an example, noting that in a four-person race, he emerged with about 45% of the vote in the May primary and was a whopping 27 points ahead of his nearest contender.

But after the Supreme Court’s decision in June striking down Roe, his margin of victory in the general election against that same challenger — a Democrat who made abortion rights central to her campaign — dropped to just under 5 percentage points.

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

The Challenge

If you’ve followed the abortion issue for any time at all, you will have noticed that the game played by the GOP establishment, from the president (except Donald Trump) all the way down to state houses, was failure theater. Abortion was just red meat to rile up the base to turn out votes and rake in campaign donations. Most didn’t oppose abortion, but they recognized its power as an issue. Never in their lives did they expect to have to vote on abortion because Roe vs. Wade kept them safe and warm at night. Now, without the nightlight and comfort blanket afforded them by the Dred Scott of the 20th Century that was Roe, they are forced to stand up and be counted. They have had their “mene, mene, tekel, upharsin” moment.


The gut check for the GOP base is whether we believe in doing what is right or attempting to curry favor with people who dislike us. In South Carolina and in Nebraska, we can see the outlines of an answer coming into view.

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