On Monday’s edition of Amanpour & Co., which airs on tax-funded PBS, South Carolina GOP state senator Penry Gustafson got a rare dose of laudable media attention for a Republican lawmaker, for helping turn back proposed legislation in his stae that would have banned abortion from the moment of conception.
Amanpour was giddy about diminishing prospects for pro-life legislation at the state level:
So intent was Amanpour on protecting abortion from “draconian” bans, she temporarily forgot that “men can get pregnant too”:
Amanpour couldn’t contain her enthusiasm.
Gustafson’s inconvenient opinion that in South Carolina, “six weeks is the perfect time and the time period [after which to ban abortion] that best suits all parties within the Republican Party,” the same time-frame restriction that liberals have been howling over as tyrannical in Florida, was skipped over.
Amanpour tried to use Gustafson to paint the GOP as extremists on guns as well, but her conflicted guest didn’t fully play along.
PBS’s Amanpour & Co
Now, for decades, American conservatives have tried to end abortion in the United States. Since the reversal of Roe v. Wade last year, the crackdown
on abortion rights has come swift and fast in Republican majority states.
Just last week, new bills threaten to ban abortion in Nebraska and South Carolina in nearly all cases. But in both those states, a handful of
Republicans blocked the legislation. Here’s South Carolina state senator Penry Gustafson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE SEN. PENRY GUSTAFSON (R-SC): There are millions of women, millions of women in this state, who feel like they’ve been personally addressed in
this legislation. There are millions of women who feel like they had not been heard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, with the unpopularity of strict bans and the GOP looking ahead to the 2024 presidential elections, are we seeing the party refocus
somewhat. Penry Gustafson joins me now from Camden in South Carolina.
State Senator, welcome to the program.
GUSTAFSON: Thank you so much. It’s a joy to be here. Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And such an important issue. As you yourself said, women have to make these decisions and only women are affected more, I think you said,
than any man on this particular issue. So, just walk me through what went through your mind and through your politics when you stood on the floor of
your legislation and said no to the draconian ban that was being proposed?
GUSTAFSON: Well, one of the things I wanted to convey in my remarks were things that were not passed or not discussed at any previous committee
meeting. I was flabbergasted to see an absence of discussion about pregnancy itself. And I’ve heard some segments made that were inaccurate by
the men and they were legislators. They need to know, right then and there, before if it was too late, exactly what it was what.
In this day and age, if you believe that a woman knows when she’s pregnant the moment she conceives, you are wrong. And so, I want to make sure some
of these statements were addressed directly. I also want to talk about just the biology of what happens. We seem to have this stigma of discussing such
things. There should be no stigma. This is biology. If you’re not comfortable talking about, perhaps we shouldn’t be passing bills about
AMANPOUR: It’s really interesting to hear you speak because you are a Republican state senator in a Republican dominated legislature, and your
pro-life. And so —
GUSTAFSON: Yes, I am.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And you — basically, your position carried the day by one vote. And the same in — I believe in Nebraska, where the same issue came
up, and again, by one vote, the Republican legislature there did not allow a blanket ban on — you know, on abortion. And I think you’re talking about
the six weeks in where you say, if a woman, you know, is expected is know exactly when she’s conceived, it’s kind of fantasy.
Can you —
GUSTAFSON: Well, out Senate passed —
GUSTAFSON: I’m sorry.
AMANPOUR: Go ahead. No, no. Go ahead.
GUSTAFSON: I was going to say, our Senate passed a really good bill that spoke to the issues presented by the South Carolina Supreme Court last
year. They ruled out S1, the fetal heartbeat bill, and being unconstitutional for the state.
I had voted for S1. We found another bill. We wrote in. All those issues were addressed in that bill, S474. We passed it. I voted for it. We sent it
to the house and then, the house decides to send us their bill, which is total abortion bill. It was unacceptable. They knew that the votes weren’t
there. They know that six or seven formal times now, and we held our own. We held our own, nobody changed their votes, nobody was expected to change
And if they don’t get it by now that South Carolina does not want a total abortion ban, we’ve proven it in the Senate. And we’ll do it again. At the
same time, we need restrictions on our abortions. It’s out of control in our state.
AMANPOUR: So, I hear you. And again, it’s very important that Republicans talking like this. Let me just read you some of the recent polls. And this
is by Fox News, which is for Republicans, a lot of Republicans, a lot of, you know, sort of hardline conservatives go to get their information.
So, recent polls by Fox News shows essentially how far out of step the GOP is with the electorate on this issue. And I wonder how much your concern by
these facts. So, according to the Fox poll, abortion should be legal, says 56 percent of respondents. Illegal say 43 percent. Again, according to the
Fox poll, access to the abortion pill, abortion medication should be legal according to 65 percent and illegal according to 30 percent.
And so, just tell me, that’s also obviously important because you’ve seen how this issue has cost you all votes in the midterms and probably in the
GUSTAFSON: Well, frankly, ma’am, I do not legislate according to polls or what may happen, you know, at the next election. Of course, I’m running for
reelection. I expect to be reelected. But I have to focus on what’s best for South Carolina, what most of South Carolinians want. And in it is true,
I represent a rural district and there are many, many Republicans who are strongly pro-life. They’re antiabortion. I respect them. I hope they feel
like they’ve been heard, but I have even more so people who do not want the total abortion ban.
So, I’ve taken all that into account. The Republican Party has a very prolife stance. It is unfortunate that people decide to divide themselves.
I’m not part of that. I try not to be. I’m doing my senatorial duty as a Christian woman in our State Senate.
AMANPOUR: I would like to play a soundbite by Nikki Haley, obviously — Nikki Haley, your former governor. She’s running for the Republican
presidential nomination on this particular issue. Here we go. OK. Here we go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do believe there is a federal role on abortion. Whether we can save more lives nationally
depends entirely on doing what no one else has done today, and that is to find consensus. That’s what I will strive to do.
No Republican president will have the ability to ban abortion nationwide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, that’s a pretty definitive statement. First, do you agree with that? And also, South Carolina Congresswoman Nancy Mace has said, the
party needs to find middle ground on this issue. As you know, the Wisconsin Supreme Court vote — they — you know, in Kansas and other, there are all
trying to — you know, they’re all making votes that are causing some ruckus.
But can you explain the difference then between what you’re saying about the states and the bigger picture whereby some senior Republicans call for
a federal ban?
GUSTAFSON: Well, this is a problem in America, isn’t it? We must keep those power separated. It’s called federalism. And when you try to have —
you know, Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. So, we have to uphold that legally.
I think if the decision is made and given to the states, to take this up and figure out what each state wants to do for their own citizens, that’s
how it should be. If federal government should leave themselves out of it, we don’t need them telling us what we need to do or not do. I respect
Governor Haley very much, but I do disagree with her on this issue. The federal government needs to stay out of it.
The states, we are handling it, albeit a little slowly in South Carolina. But — and as far as consensus is concerned, the Republican consensus is
that we do need restrictions. Now, there is a range of that between zero weeks and 12 weeks. The six weeks I think is the perfect time and the time
period that best suits all parties within the Republican Party. That’s why (INAUDIBLE) for 74.
AMANPOUR: And as you know, the fact shows that the majority of abortions in the United States are within that 12-week, the first — I believe the
first trimester. Anyway, I want to ask you finally another hardline Republican position that the majority of Americans are not behind, and
that, of course, is guns.
Again, on Fox. Fox found background checks for guns have 87 percent support. Requiring mental health checks, 80 percent support. Require 30-day
waiting period, 77 percent support. And ban assault rifle, 61 percent support.
So, where does South Carolina stand on what is a clear majority of people and of Republicans on these issues, for sensible gun control?
GUSTAFSON: Well, first of all, I think part of the problem is the word control.
AMANPOUR: Protections then.
GUSTAFSON: We have a lot of people who want to be left alone. And in South Carolina, we have very strong gun ownership. We need to have responsible
gun ownership. I believe in background checks. And to my knowledge, there is no loophole. We have them. You have to have a background check in order
to purchase a gun, firearm.
I tend to disagree a little bit with the national outcry as far as going very, very, very strict toward guns. Down south, where I’m from, a lot of
people raised, they learn how to use a firearm properly and safely and also put it away, a sword on their hip or however. We passed the open carry law
with training two years ago, and it looks like we’re going to be looking at constitutional carry, which doesn’t require permit.
AMANPOUR: All right.
GUSTAFSON: I stand very, very torn about this. My constituents want me to vote yes on constitutional carry. They want me to. It is clear.
GUSTAFSON: The law enforcement does not want it. But we shall see when the bid comes up. I’m still trying to keep my eyes and ears open, my heart open
to that decision.
AMANPOUR: All right. Penry Gustafson, thank you so much. State senator in South Carolina.