Republicans Help Defeat Abortion Bans in South Carolina and Nebraska

In both states, the measures failed by one vote.

South Carolina State House
South Carolina State House (photo: Shutterstock)

Pro-life bills that would have restricted abortion in Nebraska and South Carolina failed to pass their state legislatures on Thursday after a small number of dissenting Republicans joined Democratic lawmakers to oppose the legislation in both states.

In both states, the measures failed by one vote.


A Nebraska bill, which needed a two-thirds vote in the state’s unicameral Legislature, would have banned most abortions after six weeks. The “Nebraska Heartbeat Act” included exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. 

Although the majority of lawmakers approved the bill in a 32-15 vote, they needed 33 of the 49 senators to vote for ending debate on the bill in order to bring it to a floor vote. Sen. Mike McDonnell, a Democrat, voted with Republicans to end debate, citing his pro-life views rooted in his Catholic faith. However, two lawmakers abstained from voting, including one Republican, Sen. Merv Riepe, which prevented the bill from advancing. 

Riepe had proposed an amendment to change the cutoff from six weeks to 12 weeks, but his proposed amendment was not brought up for a vote. 

Republican Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen urged lawmakers to reconsider the bill and asked Riepe to defend life. 

“I am a staunch defender of life and supporter of the Nebraska Heartbeat Act,” Pillen said in a statement. “I am profoundly disappointed in the cloture vote today. It is unacceptable for senators to be present not voting on such a momentous vote. I call on Sen. Merv Riepe to make a motion to reconsider and stand by the commitments to life he has made in the past.”

South Carolina

A South Carolina bill that would have banned abortions at the point of conception failed to pass the Senate in a 22-21 vote after several Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the legislation. 

The bill, known as the “Human Life Protection Act,” included first-trimester exceptions for rape and incest. It also included exceptions for fatal fetal anomalies and the life of the mother.

Earlier this year, the South Carolina Senate voted in favor of a six-week ban, which put the chamber at odds with the House, which wanted a near-total ban on abortion.

Although lawmakers approved a six-week ban in 2021, the state’s Supreme Court struck down the bill as being incompatible with the state constitution in a 3-2 decision. However, one of the justices, Kaye Gorenflo Hearn, reached the mandatory age of retirement and stepped down, which gave pro-life advocates optimism that the ruling could be overturned.