In what Planned Parenthood is calling a “political stunt,” the Republican governor of South Carolina issued an unanticipated executive order on Friday that cuts off public funding for his state’s abortion clinics, threatening a variety of healthcare services for Medicaid recipients and others.
Gov. Henry McMaster’s order (pdf) bans South Carolina agencies from distributing “state or local funds, whether via grant, contract, state-administered federal funds, or any other form, to 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.”
It also instructs the state Medicaid agency to request the federal government’s permission to exclude abortion clinics from its provider network. Federal law already prohibits patients from using Medicaid to cover abortions—with exceptions for incest, rape, or when a mother’s life is in danger—but this exclusion would prevent Medicaid users from seeking other healthcare services from any clinic that provides abortion services.
Planned Parenthood—which operates one of the few state clinics that provides elective abortions—said that it does not receive Title X funding or any other grants through the state, but it does serve patients who rely on Medicaid for insurance.
“Planned Parenthood South Atlantic has provided annual exams, birth control, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and lifesaving cancer screenings—such as clinical breast exams, and Pap tests—to women, men, and young people in South Carolina for over 50 years,” Vicki Ringer, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said, calling the executive order a “political stunt.”
“While he throws women under the bus to score political points,” said Jenny Black, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, “we will continue to focus on providing the wide-range of accessible, affordable health care services that our patients, and his constituents, rely on. We will not stop fighting to protect our patients’ access to health care.”
In June, McMaster and the vocally anti-choice Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant—who has announced that he will challenge the governor in the 2018 gubernatorial race—were accused of “beating a dead horse to curry favor” with the state’s rightwing voters when McMaster requested the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control “publicly reaffirm” its policy against distributing federal money to abortion providers, and Bryant held a news conference to say he wouldn’t support the 2018-19 state budget if it included money for abortion clinics.
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