Women state senators cross party lines to block proposed South Carolina abortion ban

FILE PHOTO: South Carolina House members debate a new near-total ban on abortion in Columbia, South Carolina
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By Sharon Bernstein

(Reuters) - A day after all five women in the South Carolina state senate banded together to block a proposed abortion ban, Republican Senator Sandy Senn posted a picture of the group on her Facebook page calling the three Republicans, one Democrat and one Independent "united and unstoppable."

The senators came together across parties on Thursday to force any discussion of the near-total ban into 2024, their success the latest indication that not all Republicans agree with the strictest abortion bans.

"Republican leaders from other states are supporting moderate stances, and people I don't even know have started contributing to my campaign," Senn posted above the photo on Friday.

The group's successful filibuster of the near-total abortion ban came on the same day that the legislature in Nebraska defeated a ban on most abortions after six weeks by just one vote.

Their actions are the latest signal that some Republicans are starting to see the strictest abortion bans as possible political liabilities in a country where most voters hold more moderate views on the topic.

Earlier this month, Wisconsin voters elected liberal judge Janet Protasiewica to the state Supreme Court, flipping control to a liberal majority ahead of rulings on an abortion ban and other matters that could play a role in the 2024 presidential election.

"I don't judge someone who is pro-choice any more than I want them to judge me for being pro-life," former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, the only female candidate in the Republican Presidential race, said in a speech this week interpreted as showing a softer approach than many Republicans on the issue.

Some Republican strategists have pointed to the party's struggle to win key recent races, saying the relentless focus by some state legislatures on banning abortion over the past year have backfired. In Kansas last summer, voters roundly defeated a measure that would have made it easier to ban abortion in that state.

South Carolina Republicans have tried three times this legislative session to ban abortion, according to Senn, who favors a statewide referendum on the issue.

The vote to "continue," or delay, discussion of the proposed ban passed by just one vote on Thursday, state records show. The motion to end the women's filibuster also failed by one vote.

In Nebraska, a bill to ban most abortions at six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant, also failed by just one vote, with two senators not voting.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Bill Berkrot)