COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has signed an executive order directing state agencies to stop providing funds to any medical practice affiliated with an abortion clinic.
In the three-page order, McMaster appears to target Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers in the state, who have already been the target of state lawmakers and even former Gov. Nikki Haley.
"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," McMaster said in a statement. "Taxpayer dollars must not directly or indirectly subsidize abortion providers like Planned Parenthood."
The order goes even further and orders the Executive Budget Office to maintain a comprehensive list of physicians or professional medical practices affiliated with abortion clinics around the state and for those any funds provided to these groups to be audited.
McMaster has also ordered DHEC and the state Department of Health and Human Services to make available to the public a listing of all qualified non-abortion women's health and family planning providers operating within a 25-mile radius of any abortion clinic excluded from the state's Medicaid provider network.
The governor is gearing up for the 2018 gubernatorial election campaign against other Republicans who have promised to be harsh on abortion providers in the state. Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant, a former state Senator, has filed several women's health bills in the past several years.
Most recently in 2017, Bryant filed S. 217, the Personhood Act of South Carolina, which attempts to define "person" at fertilization.
Bryant has also said he plans on blocking next year's budget if any money is provided to Planned Parenthood or any other abortion providers.
Planned Parenthood released a statement on the matter, saying McMaster's executive order was nothing more than a "political stunt."
"While he spends taxpayers' time and money on scoring political points, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic will continue to focus on providing the wide-range of accessible, affordable health care services that our patients, and his constituents, rely on," the statement said.
Some South Carolina groups are praising Governor Henry McMaster's latest executive order, while others criticize it.
The Governor takes aim at abortion clinics, calling on state agencies to stop funding them with public, taxpayer dollars. This executive order could impact Planned Parenthood; there are mixed emotions on that.
Some, like 'A Moment of Hope' ministry in Columbia, believe de-funding abortion clinics and keeping Medicaid dollars from them will save babies' lives.
"A lot of women, like I said, are scared, alone. Many feel pressured. We want to show them ways that we can help them get through these obstacles that they feel that abortion is the only option, because it's not," A Moment of Hope's Director Mark Baumgartner says.
Baumgartner's ministry meets women in the parking lot of Planned Parenthood in Columbia, to try to keep abortions from happening.
"We're working with a family now that was burdened financially, had many kids, and now we're helping them," he says.
He is supportive of McMaster's latest executive order. The Governor is also instructing state agencies to post information on those clinics that DO NOT perform abortions within a 25-mile radius of those that DO.
However, those speaking out against this order, say it's threatening women's lives and providing less healthcare coverage and options for them. The Women's Rights and Empowerment Network points out that Medicaid only goes to abortions in South Carolina, in cases of rape, incest, and when the pregnancy threatens a woman's life.
"It's callous. It's short-sided. It's not what South Carolinians need. So, the money that he's targeting is actually going toward those services that take care of family planning needs. It takes care of cancer screenings and things like that for those communities," Ashley Lidow says.
"The clinics that are being targeted are providing a critical need for communities, and as we've seen in other states when dollars are going away, these clinics that they claim can take up the need are physically unable to do it," she says.
In the order, McMaster says South Carolina has a longstanding history of protecting the rights of the unborn.
This morning, he also said it's about being frugal with state tax dollars.
"We don't have enough tax money to do the things that are absolutely necessary. State taxpayers pay a lot of money for a lot of things. And what we want to do is be spending that money on the economic growth of the state because that's what causes everything to be better," McMaster said.