Judge Blocks South Carolina Governor’s Order to Defund Planned Parenthood

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Aug 29, 2018   |   1:12PM   |   Columbia, SC

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster’s valiant effort to defund the abortion giant Planned Parenthood of tax dollars has been stopped for now.

A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction Tuesday, blocking the state from cutting off Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program, The Post and Courier reports.

In July, McMaster took a bold stance against the abortion industry by vetoing a health care spending bill that included tax dollars for Planned Parenthood. A week later, he followed up by issuing an executive order instructing the state Department of Health and Human Services to “terminate abortion clinics as Medicaid providers,” according to the local news.

However, the abortion chain filed a lawsuit to block his executive order.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis agreed to temporarily block McMaster’s order while Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit continues through the legal process.

The State reports:

States do not have unfettered discretion to exclude health care providers from the Medicaid program for reasons unrelated to the provider’s ability to perform services covered by Medicaid, Lewis wrote in her order.

“It is undisputed (Planned Parenthood) is professionally competent and is capable of performing family planning services for Medicaid patients,” she wrote.

… Planned Parenthood argues McMaster’s order is unconstitutional because it places an undue burden on a patient’s right to choose his or her doctor.

The state’s attorneys contend Medicaid does not define the term “qualified,” permitting states to exclude providers for any reason established by law. They pointed to an 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from last year that said patients’ right to choose their medical provider was “ambiguous.”

The governor’s spokesperson Brian Symmes said they will not give up the fight.

“[McMaster] will continue to fight until every South Carolinian can know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that their taxpayer dollars are not being used to perform abortions,” Symmes said. “… he will continue to do all that he can to make sure no taxpayer dollars either directly or indirectly subsidize abortions in South Carolina.”

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Meanwhile, the state branch of Planned Parenthood rejoiced at the judge’s decision.

“Planned Parenthood is deeply committed to continuing to fight for the right to basic health care, and we are grateful to the Court for protecting our patient’s access to care, just as we always have,” said Jenny Black, president of the Planned Parenthood affiliate, in a statement.

In the past several years, the Republican governor and legislature have cut various streams of funding to the abortion chain, but Planned Parenthoods in the state still received $82,000 in Medicaid funds in 2017, according to local news reports.

Last year, McMaster instructed the state Department of Health and Human Services to request a waiver from the federal government to defund abortion groups of Medicaid dollars. That waver has not yet been granted, but McMaster said he will not back down.

In May, he described Planned Parenthood as a “blemish on the great character of the people of South Carolina and this country.”

The governor continued: “I’m going to do all I can do to see they get no taxpayer money. I can accomplish that. And I will, along with President Trump.”

In 2017, he also directed state agencies to stop giving funds to or contracting with groups that provide abortions. A state report detailing funding between 2011 and 2017 found Planned Parenthood received at least $312,000 from the state Department of Health and Human Services and the South Carolina Public Employment Benefit Authority.

Planned Parenthood aborts approximately 320,000 unborn babies every year, more than any other group in the United States. Its most recent annual report showed a record income of $1.46 billion, with about half a billion dollars coming from taxpayers. At the federal level, President Donald Trump and his administration also have been cutting off various streams of funding to abortion groups.

In December, the U.S. Department of Justice said it is investigating whether the Planned Parenthood abortion chain illegally sold aborted baby body parts.