Three female GOP state senators who filibustered S.C. abortion ban lost their primaries

Three Republican state senators in South Carolina who filibustered an abortion ban in the state have lost in their primary elections this month.

Katrina Shealy, Sandy Senn and Penry Gustafson lost to three male candidates and were among a bipartisan group of five women state senators who filibustered a near-total abortion ban. They were nicknamed the “sister senators.”

As a result of their coordinated effort, the group was chosen last year to receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.

“During the filibuster, each of the five lawmakers took turns describing the complexities of pregnancy and the reproductive system, the dangers of lack of access to contraception, and inadequate privacy laws,” said the announcement about them receiving the award. “In the immediate aftermath of their filibuster, the Sister Senators were heckled and harassed by anti-abortion activists. The three Republicans were also met with strong opposition from their own party — including censures and promises of primary challenges in 2024.”

Shealy conceded Tuesday night to Carlisle Kennedy, the Post and Courier reported, after obtaining 37.5% of the vote, according to an unofficial tally of primary runoff results published by South Carolina on Tuesday night. Shealy represents a county in the middle of the state that includes the capital city of Columbia.

Kennedy’s campaign website said that he’s “proudly pro-life,” and he said he “will work to protect the unborn and advocate for policies that support mothers and families.”

The results come after Gustafson and Senn were defeated during primaries earlier this month.

Gustafson, who represents three counties in the northern part of the state, lost by a wide margin to Allen Blackmon during the June 11 primary, after Blackmon obtained 82% of the vote. Blackmon also ran on an anti-abortion platform, saying on his campaign website that those who are “born and pre-born” are “worthy of protection.”

Senn, who has represented the southeastern part of the state including the Charleston area, was defeated by Matt Leber, narrowly losing her race by just more than 30 votes. Leber has served in the South Carolina House since 2022 and voted for the state’s bill, signed into law, that bans abortion after a “fetal heartbeat has been detected.”

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