Lowcountry senator vows to fight abortion ban in special session
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - When a six-week abortion ban goes before the state Senate on Tuesday, a senator who represents Charleston and Dorchester Counties says she and the other women of the Senate will vote against it.
Sen. Sandy Senn (R-Charleston) is one of five women in the state Senate who earned the nickname the ‘Sister Senators’ after filibustering a bill to ban abortion from conception in South Carolina.
“We are friends. I mean, we are five out of 46, so you know that just naturally is going to draw the females together. So we’re friends. We don’t always vote like it, in fact, we often don’t vote like it, but on this issue, we are aligned,” Senn says.
She says she is surprised by the national attention the women have received for their role in the vote. She also credits Republicans Tom Davis, Greg Hembree and Luke Rankin for voting no as well.
The ban is set to go before the Senate next week during the special session.
“There were also three males who crossed party lines too, and without them, the five of us could not have held it,” Senn says. “This is a six-week ban that some of the females voted for before. They will not vote for it this time. All five of us will be steadfast.”
Senn says she knows her Sister Senators will vote against the ban, but she does not know how the overall vote will go.
“It is just going to be a matter of whether we still have the males in support of us and if we do, we can stop this bill,” Senn says. “If we do not, we cannot, so then all we’ll do is make a few statements and sit down. If we have the votes, we will filibuster again and the bill will die.”
The South Carolina House passed the six-week abortion ban Wednesday night.
Rep. Elizabeth “Spencer” Whetmore (D-Charleston) spoke in favor of one of more than 100 amendments to the bill and voted for most of them. None of the amendments passed. She vocally supported an amendment that would have expanded access to Medicaid for pregnant women, promoted contraceptives, promoted age-appropriate science-based sex education, protected fertility treatments and protected access to abortion in a medical emergency.
“Your belief is your belief,” Whetmore said. “Legislation is driven by data and science. At the moment that we begin pushing the belief of one religion, the beliefs of one person, onto all of our South Carolina citizens, we stop being a democracy. We stop having freedom and autonomy.”
Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg) was also outspoken against the six-week ban. She even referenced Senn’s stance while advocating for an abortion ban to go to a statewide vote.
“I encourage you to think about those three Republican women senators who thought it more important that they look out for the women and men of this state than it was to go like lemmings, falling off a cliff, following a party line,” she said. “This amendment is yet again asking you to allow the voters of South Carolina to be heard on this issue.”
Senn says while considers herself very pro-life, there are varying degrees and she cannot support a six-week ban that is so close to a near-total ban.
“So this is a middle ground for me,” Senn says. “These polar opposites of, ‘Oh, I want to go through the third trimester’ or ‘I want zero abortion.’ That’s, to me, nonsensical. What I’m trying to do is bring things to the middle and that’s just the best place I know to be.”
A prior six-week ban that the legislature passed was struck down by the South Carolina Supreme Court as unconstitutional. If another six-week ban makes it through the Senate, court challenges are expected, but Senn says there would be a key difference this time.
“Two weeks after that abortion opinion came out, they changed the makeup of the Supreme Court and two women were running for office. They should have gotten that seat and they elected the male overwhelmingly,” Senn says. “So we are now going to be facing an all-male Supreme Court. And so that’s why the men in the chamber are rabid, to try and get this before a new Supreme Court to get a different ruling.”
Senn says while she expected the special session to include the abortion discussion, she doesn’t know what outcome to expect but she is prepared to make her statements on Tuesday.
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