COLUMBIA, S.C. — An executive order signed last month by South Carolina’s governor creating a public list of doctors and medical practices affiliated with abortion providers is “an invitation for intimidation, threats, and even violence” against health care workers, according to a group that lobbies on reproductive health issues.
The South Carolina chapter of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists expressed its concern to Republican Gov. Henry McMaster in a letter that The Associated Press obtained on Friday.
The creation of such a registry is among the provisions in an executive order McMaster signed last week. Another portion of the order directs state agencies not to allocate state and federal money to health care providers affiliated in any way with abortion clinics. A different provision directs the state’s Medicaid agency to seek federal permission to exclude abortion clinics from its Medicaid provider network.
The Medicaid-related restriction also concerned the group, which said it creates a health care gap for services such as cervical cancer screenings that likely can’t be filled by other providers.
But the portion requiring state officials to assemble a list “of all qualified women’s health and family planning providers” within a 25-mile (40-kilometer) radius of abortion clinics excluded from the state’s Medicaid network, the group wrote, “puts the safety and security of physicians and patients at risk,” citing an uptick in online hate speech and threats of violence against the group’s physicians and patients.
The order is in line with a previous action taken by President Donald Trump, who in April signed into law a measure allowing states to deny certain federal funding to abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood. That nullified an Obama-era rule explicitly stopping states from denying federal Title X family planning funds to clinics that also provide abortion services.
McMaster was one of Trump’s earliest backers and the first statewide elected official to support his bid for the presidency. South Carolina gets about $5.6 million annually in Title X funds that it distributes to health care clinics, none of which are abortion providers, for family planning and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, according to state officials.
Planned Parenthood, which operates one of South Carolina’s three facilities that perform abortions, did get about $300,000 in combined state and federal Medicaid funding for non-abortion services, such as office visits, annual cancer screenings, and contraceptives between 2010 and 2015, according to the testimony from the state Medicaid agency’s director that year. Federal rules prohibit the pregnancy-prevention money from paying for abortions, and federal law already prohibits Medicaid money from being used to pay for abortions, with exceptions for rape, incest or endangerment of the mother’s life.
After McMaster’s order, Planned Parenthood Federation of America officials said the organization would keep working to ensure access to services. In a statement to the AP, McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes said the governor’s message on the issue had been consistent.
“Gov. McMaster’s position has been clear, and it isn’t going to change,” Symmes said. “If Planned Parenthood wants to receive taxpayer dollars, they should stop performing abortions. Period.”