SC Democrats call out one of their own members for abortion vote in new ad

The South Carolina Democratic Party in a new TV ad is calling out one of its own members for voting to pass a stricter abortion ban.

The ad, released Tuesday, shows faces of House members who voted in August to pass a near-total abortion ban with limited exceptions.

Most of the faces shown are of Republicans. But one is a Democrat: State Rep. Jackie Hayes, D-Dillon, who’s photo is shown on screen for less than a second.

“Remember these faces, because these South Carolina legislators just voted for one of the cruelest abortion bans in America. A ban with no exceptions if a woman has been raped, or is a victim of incest,” the 30-second ad says.

The ad ends on a photo of Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, who is running for reelection.

“This man cheered them on,” the ad says. “So this November make your voice heard. Vote them out.”

Hayes was the only House Democrat who voted in August to advance H. 5399, a near-total abortion ban that in its original form only offered an exception for the mother’s life.

“We put everybody who voted for this bill in this ad because it would have been hypocritical not to,” said Trav Robertson, chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party. “Everyone knows where Jackie Hayes stands on this issue, but not allowing exemptions for rape and incest is a bridge too far.”

Hayes told The State newspaper that he describes himself as an independent thinker, saying he doesn’t agree with the Democratic Party on the issue of abortion.

“They’ve got to do what they’ve got to do. My morals and my beliefs are a lot more important to me than politics,” Hayes said. “I’ve been doing this a long time. I can understand why they’re doing that. I’ll keep moving forward.”

State Rep. Jackie Hayes, D-Dillon
State Rep. Jackie Hayes, D-Dillon

House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, said he had not seen the ad and did not want to comment.

House Assistant Minority Leader Russell Ott, who voted in 2021 to pass the six-week ban but voted against the original near-total ban this August, said the abortion ban the House proposed this year went too far.

“Not everything is 100% one way or the other. What the party was showing is this is an issue-driven ad,” Ott, D-Calhoun, said. “I know Jackie. I doubt that’s (the ad is) going to worry him one bit. He looks at each issue, he makes his decision and then he moves forward with it.”

After the House passed the bill, the Senate earlier this month amended the legislation after Republicans failed to find enough support to pass a near-total abortion ban without exceptions for cases of sexual assault and fetal anomaly.

The Senate changed the legislation to allow for abortions up to when a fetal heartbeat is detected, or at about six weeks of pregnancy. They added exceptions for rape and incest up to 12 weeks, and inserted an amendment that says doctors can do abortions if the fetus has a fatal anomaly.

The House refused to support those changes Sept. 27, sending the bill to negotiations with senators to hammer out a compromise. But, in a statement after the vote, Senate President Thomas Alexander, R-Oconee, indicated the House move makes it nearly impossible to pass the bill.

Robertson said the purpose of the ad was to draw attention to the predominantly white and mostly male Legislature, which voted to pass stricter abortion restrictions.

“The fact is when you vote for a bill and you sponsor legislation that does not allow a victim of rape or incest to have opportunities to deal with that medically, then it doesn’t matter what party you belong to,” Robertson said. “That’s a sin against God and humanity to force a 10-year-old girl to carry a child when she’s been raped by her uncle.”

Robertson said the six-figure ad buy is not running in Hayes’ Dillon County district, at least not yet.

He declined to say where the ad is airing.

Hayes has been in office since 1999 and currently represents parts of Darlington, Dillon, Horry and Marlboro counties in the northeastern part of the state. Former President Donald Trump carried Hayes’ district in 2020 with 51% of the vote.

Hayes, who won seven state championships as Dillon High School’s football coach for 29 years, ran unopposed in 2020.

Hayes had opposition this year. In June, he defeated Democrat Jamal Campbell. He faces Republican Robert Norton and Independent Michael Copland in November.

Robertson said the party has no thoughts about trying to find a primary challenger for Hayes in 2024, but the ad, Robertson added, could ultimately help the lawmaker running for reelection.

“It also gives Jackie Hayes an opportunity to say, ‘Look, I’m such a conservative Democrat that my own party is against me on some of these issues,’” Robertson said. “That benefits him in his district.”