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Near-total abortion bans fail in South Carolina, Nebraska as Republican holdouts express concerns

Efforts to restrict abortion in South Carolina and Nebraska both failed in their respective legislatures Thursday as some Republican holdouts prevented their passage.

A near-total ban on abortion failed in South Carolina when six Republicans helped block a motion to end debate on the bill and, just hours later, a six-week ban on abortion with some exceptions also failed in Nebraska.

State senators in South Carolina were unable to clear a threshold to end a filibuster on the near-total abortion bill, continuing a stalemate from the day before when several votes were unable to end the debate.

Similarly, an effort to ban abortion around the sixth week of pregnancy also failed to break a filibuster in the Nebraska Legislature Thursday.

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A photo of the South Carolina Senate

South Carolina Senate President Thomas Alexander presides over a failed vote to end debate of a near-total abortion ban, Wednesday, April 26, 2023, in Columbia, S.C. The South Carolina Senate rejected the bill Thursday, April 27.  (AP Photo/James Pollard)

In South Carolina, six Republicans helped block the motions to end the debate and with less than a week left in the legislative session there is little chance of the bill passing this year.

Republican Sen. Penry Gustafson expressed she was “pro-life” but said the proposal would leave “no room for empathy, reality or graciousness,” to women or healthcare providers across the state.

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It would have banned abortion at conception with few exceptions, including for rape or incest through the first trimester or to save the patient’s life.

Abortion remains legal in South Carolina through 22 weeks.

Penry Gustafson

South Carolina Republican Sen. Penry Gustafson speaks against a near-total abortion ban, Wednesday, April 26, 2023, in Columbia, S.C. The South Carolina Senate rejected the bill Thursday, April 27.  (AP Photo/James Pollard)

In Nebraska, lawmakers similarly failed to advance Legislative Bill 626, which would have banned abortion around six weeks, or once cardiac activity can be detected in an unborn child.

On Thursday, members voted 32-15 on a motion to invoke cloture, which would allow senators to vote on the Nebraska Heartbeat Act. It failed by a single vote.

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It was the second straight year that an effort to restrict abortion access in the state failed.

The bill failed to get its 33rd vote when Sen. Merv Riepe abstained.

Riepe, a former hospital administrator, previously expressed concern that a six-week ban might not give women enough time to even know they are pregnant and introduced an amendment Thursday that would have extended the proposed ban to 12 weeks.

Merv Riepe

State Sen. Merv Riepe ponders before voting on a bill to ban abortions in Nebraska after about six weeks on Thursday, April 27, 2023, at the Nebraska State Capital in Lincoln, Neb.  (Larry Robinson/Lincoln Journal Star via AP)/Lincoln Journal Star via AP)

He also warned his conservative colleagues that they should proceed on the issue of abortion carefully to not galvanize women into voting them out of office.

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

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Sen. Joni Albrecht rejected Riepe’s amendment as she said the 6-week proposal “was a big compromise” from a total abortion ban that was introduced last year.

People cheering

Cheers erupt in the Rotunda after a bill that would have banned abortions in Nebraska after about six weeks failed to get the votes necessary to invoke cloture, Thursday, April 27, 2023, at the Nebraska State Capital in Lincoln, Neb.  (Larry Robinson/Lincoln Journal Star via AP)

Albrecht’s bill would have automatically banned nearly all abortions in the state once the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, but it fell short by two votes.

Under a law signed in 2010, Nebraska bans abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.

States have individually determined the legality of abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which allowed constitutionally-protected abortion rights, in 2022.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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