Republicans in the South Carolina state Senate had the bright idea to write up a bill that would outlaw all abortions in the state (with the exception of cases involving rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s life), and they had the numbers to pass it. Which doesn’t mean, of course, that it would have immediately become law—legislative and legal obstacles remained. But it would have been a huge step to criminalizing a woman’s sovereignty over her own body, and it appeared all but inevitable that it would move forward.
Faced with that reality, the Democratic minority did the only thing they could—they filibustered. For two straight days:
State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, held the floor for upwards of six hours as he filibustered the measure Thursday. He turned over the podium to state Sens. Margie Bright Matthews, D-Walterboro, and Fanning, who carried on the effort through the rest of the evening.
The vote to finally end the debate came close to 1 a.m. Friday morning.
It’s a rare “victory” for Democrats in the south, who are outnumbered in virtually all state houses, and though the bill isn’t dead, it’s been dealt a severe blow.
Republicans cracked in the end—five of them, to be precise, enough for a 24-21 vote to send it back to committee.
The Republicans who flipped even admitted that the solid show of unity from Democrats convinced them they were in for a hopeless fight:
By threatening to keep the Senate in Columbia over the weekend, Republicans hoped the Democrats would eventually give up on their stall tactics. But when none of them left after going deep into the night, Rankin said he feared the clock would run out on the session without passing either the abortion ban or any of the other bills they hope to take up.
“They were here en masse with no defection,” Rankin said of the Democrats.
In a time when many mainstream Democrats seem to think the best strategy for combating conservatism is to concede ground and strive for compromise—an enormous failure, by any measure—this episode will hopefully serve as a clarion call not just in South Carolina, but around the country. The lesson is clear: Fight on, fight relentlessly, and never say die even when you don’t have a chance. Because maybe you do.