Why a billboard in South Carolina now advertises abortion access in California


COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) – A 2022 candidate for governor is paying for a billboard that South Carolinians may spot on their commutes.

But where they won’t spot this candidate is on their ballots this November.

The campaign of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat up for re-election for his current job this fall and with potential presidential aspirations in 2024 or beyond, is the one renting a billboard that now stands along a busy stretch of Gervais Street in downtown Columbia.

It reads, “Need an abortion? California is ready to help.”

“Abortion remains legal and protected in California. We have your back,” Newsom said in a video released earlier this month, announcing the launch of abortion.ca.gov.

The billboard, which also quotes a Bible verse, directs people to that State of California-sponsored website, which has information about abortion providers in the state and explains they can access the procedure there if they can’t in their own state.

Newsom’s campaign said the Columbia sign is one of more than a dozen they have paid for in seven Republican-led states across the country, along with Indiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas.

Tagging South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster in a tweet, Newsom attached a photo of another billboard that reads, “South Carolina does not own your body. You do.”

“That’s somewhat unusual,” McMaster, a Republican, said when asked about Newsom’s purchase.

McMaster, who is also up for re-election this fall, offered a different perspective on the Palmetto State.

“I like our slogan, ‘Smiling faces in beautiful places.’ I think South Carolina is a happy place. We try to stay happy and friendly,” he said. “People are free to do, like Gov. Newsom, do whatever they want, but that’s — I think that’s unusual.”

The billboard’s arrival is timely in the capital city, where Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly.

Next Tuesday, members of the state’s House of Representatives will return, again, to continue the debate on more restrictive abortion legislation.

The bill before them is one Senate Republicans passed two weeks ago. It would adjust South Carolina’s current six-week ban on the procedure, which was temporarily blocked from being enforced by the state Supreme Court in August.

House Republicans had previously passed a bill that would ban abortion from conception, with limited exceptions. However, after nearly 20 hours of debate the next week, senators approved the amended six-week ban, with the chamber’s Republican leader saying they did not have enough support to pass tighter restrictions than that.

If a majority of House members vote to not agree with the Senate’s changes and further change the bill, it could spell the demise of the legislation as a whole with the two chambers potentially at an impasse.

Almost all House Democrats voted against the more restrictive bill during their debate, and members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, all of whom are Republicans, have pledged to vote to non-concur.

However, if House Republicans can gather enough votes to concur with the Senate’s bill without making any additional changes, the legislation heads to McMaster’s desk.

“I think we’ll have a bill, at the end, that will be presented that will be acceptable and reasonable to the vast majority of the people in this state,” McMaster said.

The location of Newsom’s billboard in downtown Columbia is just four blocks away from the South Carolina State House.

So when lawmakers return there next week to continue their abortion debate, some of them may drive right past it to get to work.

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