The Buzz

SC Democrat fights abortion ban with proposal to limit Viagra

Mia McLeod
Mia McLeod

A Democratic lawmaker from Richland County acknowledges her proposal to make it more difficult to get medication to treat erectile dysfunction likely will to go nowhere. But state Rep. Mia McLeod says she wants to send a message to the GOP-controlled General Assembly about legislating about the bodies of South Carolinians.

McLeod said her bill — one of most controversial introduced before the session starts in 10 days — is her way of fighting proposals that would restrict abortions in the state.

“It’s not a joke,” she said.

A top House Republican sees little humor in McLeod’s bill.

House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville, compared her proposal to a political cartoon — “Entertaining, but kind of sad that someone would spend the time to draft and introduce that bill.”

McLeod’s proposal won’t stop GOP-led efforts to limit abortions, including a ban 20 weeks into a pregnancy that is close to final passage.

“The caucus is going to support some pro-life legislation as we have done in the past,” Bannister said.

McLeod knows her bill to limit erectile dysfunction medication — including Viagra and Cialis, part of a $4 billion-a-year worldwide industry — is a long shot.

“In a male-dominated Legislature is it likely to pass?” McLeod asked. “No.”

But she added her bill, along with anti-abortion proposals, waste lawmakers’ time, energy and taxpayer money.

McLeod has mentioned her conversation-creating bill in fundraising pitches for her 2016 state Senate campaign. She proposes that doctors must clear several hurdles before prescribing erectile dysfunction medication, including:

▪  Referring a patient to a sex therapist

▪  Conducting a cardiac stress test

▪  Notifying the patient of the drug risks

▪  Obtaining a notarized affidavit from at least one of the patient’s sexual partners that states the patient has experienced symptoms of erectile dysfunction during the previous 90 days

McLeod said her experience on a special House panel that investigated the state’s two Planned Parenthood clinics this fall fueled her to file her erectile dysfunction bill.

The panel found the S.C. clinics were not involved in donor tissue programs, a source of national political controversy this year, McLeod said.

The committee has not finished working, said state Rep. Gary Clary, a Pickens Republican who chairs the panel. But the investigation found, so far, that no state money is being spent to fund Planned Parenthood.

Another panel of three senators and three state representatives will begin working out the differences on a proposal to prohibit abortions at 20 weeks — instead of the current 24 weeks — soon after legislators return Jan. 12.

Lawmakers on the committee are working out possible exemptions for rape and incest and the definition of fetal anomaly, said state Sen. Brad Hutto, a Orangeburg Democrat who sits on the panel.

Once a deal is reached, lawmakers will vote again on the bill. If approved, the ban would head to Republican Gov. Nikki Haley’s desk for her signature to become law.

Even if a 20-week ban passes, McLeod expects attempts to restrict abortion to continue.

“I don’t see an end in sight,” she said. “That’s troubling to say the least.”

McLeod’s proposal highlights how some lawmakers advocate for keeping the government out of people’s lives — except when it comes to restrictions for women, Hutto said.

Women’s health decisions should be left up to the woman, her doctor and her faith, Hutto said.

By proposing to restrict access to erectile dysfunction medication, McLeod said she wants legislators to think about abortion differently and broaden discussions to include men’s sexual health.

If some lawmakers are going to insist upon regulating some issues over reproductive rights, then McLeod said, “We should govern it all.”

Cassie Cope: 803-771-8657, @cassielcope

Pre-filed bills

A glance at some proposals that S.C. lawmakers will consider during the legislative session that begins Jan. 12:

A dam fund

S.C. Rep. Jimmy Bales, D-Richland, is proposing to spend $25 million to establish a fund that would provide loans to dam owners.

The money, issued through the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, would be used to repair or replace dams that have public access roads on them or or are on a body of water that allows public access.

Many homeowners associations don’t have the money to repair dams that failed in October’s flooding, Bales said. If a dam is owned by a homeowners association, its board of directors would apply for the loan and pledge its dues as collateral.

All loans would have to be paid back over 15 years or less at an interest rate set by the state treasurer.

Bales added repairing the dams and restoring the lakes would help keep local tax bases up.

Lake noise prohibition

State Sen. Ronnie Cromer, R-Newberry, who lives on Lake Murray, wants to address complaints of noise from boats and businesses on the lake.

Since Newberry, Saluda and Richland counties all touch the lake, noise restrictions vary in each county.

In addition, a sheriff in one county doesn’t have jurisdiction across the border, Cromer said.

Cromer is suggesting DHEC regulate noise violations.

More money for airports

State Sen. Paul Campbell, R-Berkeley, introduced a proposal that could send some property tax paid on airlines’ aircraft to aid smaller airports across the state.

Campbell, executive director of the Charleston County Aviation Authority, suggests the State Aviation Fund receive aircraft property tax money after the first $2.5 million is collected.

The aviation fund is not receiving any of the property tax money because the state does not collect enough taxes to meet the current $5 million annual threshold. The State Aviation Fund revenue is used for airfield maintenance, weather reporting and matching of federal construction grants.

Smaller general aviation airports in South Carolina are prioritized for the money because they don’t have the revenue streams of the state’s four largest airports in Charleston, Columbia, Myrtle Beach and Greenville/Spartanburg, said James Stephens, executive director of S.C. Aeronautics Commission.