South Carolina Gubernatorial Race: Three Candidates, All Anti-Choice
The South Carolina governor’s race might not be a race at all, but it's become a case study in the power of anti-choice politics in deep-red states.
The South Carolina governor’s race might not be a race at all, but it’s become a case study in the power of anti-choice politics in deep-red states.
Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, with an incumbent advantage, is likely to find herself in the governor’s mansion again in November. But even if Haley were to somehow find herself in a competitive race during the final weeks of this election cycle, an anti-choice candidate would still win out.
All three candidates for South Carolina governor—Haley, and both her Democrat and independent challengers—are against access to abortion, leaving pro-choice voters in the Palmetto State facing a bleak outlook. This is the state, after all, that recently saw a lawmaker liken Planned Parenthood to Adolf Hitler.
None of the three candidates have made abortion even a marginal issue in their campaigns, instead focusing on the economy and education. That omission could be strategic, since a poll this spring found that a majority of South Carolina voters oppose abortion restrictions.
Under Haley’s watch, the South Carolina legislature has led an offensive against reproductive rights in the state.
Ninety-three percent of South Carolina counties have no abortion provider. The conservative legislature has pushed to make it even harder for women to access safe and legal abortion, including passing laws about refuted myths of infants “born alive” after botched abortions and a budget that eliminates the use of public money to cover abortion in cases of rape, incest, or to save a woman’s life.
The Republican-dominated legislature since 2013 has introduced six “personhood” bills, a “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” and a bill mandating that abortion clinics have hospital admitting privileges, among other legislation.
Haley’s reputation, since being elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2004, has risen from adept business executive and state political leader to a national Tea Party celebrity and a symbol of Republican diversity. Haley, the daughter of two immigrants, is one of two Indian-American governors—the other is Bobby Jindal of Louisiana—and the first Indian American and woman to serve as governor of South Carolina.
Haley was also the youngest sitting governor in the country when she was elected in 2010.
Haley, who said that her party’s anti-choice platform is a “distraction” and “doesn’t matter” and that “women don’t care about contraception,” has also taken matters into her own hands. In 2012 she cut spending for rape crisis centers from the state budget, calling the centers a “special interest.”
Haley’s opponents for governor don’t offer much alternative in the way of abortion rights. Vincent Sheheen, the Democratic nominee who lost the governor’s mansion to Haley by a narrow margin in 2010, during a primary debate distinguished himself as the only anti-choice Democratic candidate.
“You can’t simply say someone is pro-choice or pro-life,” Sheheen, who is currently a Democratic state senator, said when asked where he stood on abortion. “You have to say: ‘Where can we find consensus?’ And the consensus ought to be where can we reduce abortions. … The governor can do that by helping make it easier to adopt.”
When pushed farther on whether he favored women’s rights to decide whether to continue a pregnancy and bear a child or be forced to carry a child to term, Sheheen clarified: “I do not think abortion would be the appropriate thing to do.”
Sheheen’s campaign website does not provide a position on the issue.
Then there’s Tom Ervin, a lawyer who served as a Democrat in the state house in the late 1970s. Ervin first entered the Republican primary race in March. He then dropped out after saying he couldn’t mount an effective GOP campaign, and later announced an independent bid.
Ervin, a born-again Christian, has said he became a Republican in part because of his anti-choice position.