Politics & Government

SC governor issues order blocking abortion-related payments

Gov. Henry McMaster has issued an executive order that blocks state agencies from paying state or local money to any physician or medical practice affiliated with an abortion clinic.

McMaster’s office announced the executive order Friday.

The order directs state agencies to cease providing state or local money – through grants, contracts, state-administered federal funds or any other form – to any physician or medical practice affiliated with an abortion clinic, including sharing the same physical location, according to the release.

“There are a variety of agencies, clinics, and medical entities in South Carolina that receive taxpayer funding to offer important women’s health and family planning services without performing abortions,” said McMaster in the release. “Taxpayer dollars must not directly or indirectly subsidize abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.”

The governor's office did not have an amount available Friday for the payments that it is targeting.

South Carolina’s three abortion providers get no money directly from the state. Nor do they get federal family-planning dollars that flow through the state. Those grants cannot be spent on abortions, under federal law.

However, the clinics – including one operated by Planned Parenthood in Columbia – are reimbursed by Medicaid for abortions performed because a pregnancy threatens the mother’s life or resulted from rape or incest.

Medicaid, bankrolled mostly by federal dollars, paid more than $437,000 to reimburse the cost of 222 abortions in South Carolina between July 2010 and 2015, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

The state agency also said Planned Parenthood South Atlantic of Columbia received $72,867 from Medicaid last budget year. The Charleston Women’s Medical Center and Greenville Women’s Clinic did not receive any Medicaid money.

In April, President Donald Trump overturned a short-lived order, signed during the final days of Barack Obama’s presidency, that temporarily barred states from withholding federal family-planning grants from abortion providers.

Those grants can pay for birth control, cancer screenings and tests and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases – but not abortions.

McMaster also directed the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services to seek waivers from the federal government to exclude abortion clinics from the state's Medicaid provider network, the release stated.

Vicki Ringer, Planned Parenthood’s director of public affairs, called McMaster’s announcement a “political stunt.”

“Planned Parenthood does not receive Title X funding or any other grants through the state of South Carolina,” Ringer said. “We do serve patients who rely on Medicaid for their insurance, and provide basic healthcare to men and women who participate in the state health insurance plan.”

Earlier this year, Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant, who has announced he will challenge McMaster in the 2018 GOP primary for governor, said he would not sign the state’s 2018-19 budget if it included money for abortion clinics. At the time, Ringer called Bryant’s announcement a political stunt.

Reporters Cassie Cope and Jamie Self contributed.

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