SC Governor issues executive order blocking payments to abortion-related offices

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

McMaster’s office announced the executive order through a written release on Friday morning.

It directs state agencies to cease providing state or local funds – through grants, contracts, state-administered federal funds or any other form – to any physician or medical practices affiliated with an abortion clinic that is operating with or in the same physical location as one, 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.”

South Carolina’s three abortion providers get no money directly from the state. Nor do they get federal family 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.

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 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to allow the agency 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 gubernatorial race, said he would not sign the state’s 2018-19 budget if it included money for abortion clinics. Ringer also called at the time Bryant’s announcement a political stunt.

Check back for updates to this developing story.