Republican South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order on Friday demanding that state agencies cut off state and local funding to abortion clinics.
The order directs state agencies to stop providing all forms of funding, whether it comes through grants, contracts, state-administered federal funds or “any other form” to any abortion clinic.
McMaster also directed the state’s Department of Health and Human Services to ask for waivers from the federal government which would allow it to exclude abortion clinics from the state’s Medicaid provider network.
According to The Post and Courier, only three clinics offer elective abortions in South Carolina, including one Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia. The exact language of the new order bans government money from “any physician or professional medical practice affiliated with an abortion clinic and operating concurrently with and in the same physical, geographic location or footprint as an abortion clinic.”
Back in February, a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked a similar attempt to cut off Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood centers.
Planned Parenthood already receives relatively little money from South Carolina’s Medicaid agency. But McMaster’s order echoes a similar call by Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant in June to defund the group.
A social conservative, Bryant is running against McMaster in the 2018 governor’s race. “I’ve been a pro-life activist my entire life and will continue to be,” Bryant stated back in June.
In light of the fact that a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked that state’s attempt to defund Planned Parenthood and let the group’s clinics continue to treat Medicaid patients earlier this year, it’s a toss-up as to whether McMaster’s new executive order could withstand a potential legal challenge.
However, the Texas attorney general recently asked the U.S. Court of Appeals to overturn that ruling.
Planned Parenthood currently operates two clinics in South Carolina which are located in Charleston and Columbia. And the Columbia clinic only offers elective abortions. Federal law already prohibits Medicaid money from being used to pay for abortions, with exceptions for cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger.
The Greenville Women’s Clinic in the Upstate and the Charleston Women’s Medical Center in West Ashley also offer elective abortions.
Data provided by the state Medicaid program, which costs more than $7 billion a year, shows that the Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia received less than $75,000 from Medicaid during the 2016 fiscal year. Most of that money was used to provide family planning services for Medicaid beneficiaries, such as prescribing birth control.
In June, McMaster sent a letter to the board of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control in which he foreshadowed his intention to target abortion clinics, including Planned Parenthood. In the letter he wrote, he stated that “services related to pregnancy care, fertility and cancer screenings may be offered in many ways, without state subsidization of abortion providers.”
Earlier this summer, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic accused McMaster and Bryant of wasting taxpayers’ time and money on scoring political points.