S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster has struck close to $16 million in federal and state Medicaid spending for family planning services in a series of state budget vetoes for the 2018-2019 fiscal year announced Friday.
The $15,779,259 carved out of the budget for the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services will barely affect Planned Parenthood, a health care nonprofit with clinics in Columbia and Charleston. This is despite the fact that the group is prominently mentioned in a document that outlines the governor’s reasons for the vetoes.
“Taxpayer dollars must not directly or indirectly subsidize abortion provider like Planned Parenthood,” McMaster wrote in a letter to the state legislature. “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.”
In South Carolina, the state Department of Health and Human Services operates Medicaid, a joint federal-state program that provides health insurance to low-income residents. The veto cuts about $2.2 million from the state’s Medicaid coffers for family planning services, with the other $13.6 million representing federal funds.
During the 2016-2017 fiscal year, Planned Parenthood only received about $82,000 of more than $42 million spent by the state on Medicaid reimbursements for family planning services, according to the Post & Courier.
Planned Parenthood is not specifically mentioned in the state legislature’s budget.
The Medicaid money that ends up in any organization’s hands is entirely up to where a patient chooses to get medical care, which means that McMaster’s veto has has wide-ranging implications for all Medicaid recipients hoping to access services ranging from physical exams to lab work.
“Let’s be clear: in an effort to prevent South Carolinians from accessing reproductive healthcare services at Planned Parenthood, he is rejecting all federal family planning Medicaid dollars, regardless of the provider,” said Planned Parenthood spokesperson Vicki Ringer in a statement released Friday afternoon. “As a result of this political move, none of the South Carolinians who rely on Medicaid for their healthcare will be able to access family planning services at any of the state’s 4,000 Medicaid providers.”
Using federal and state funds to perform abortions is already illegal under the Hyde Amendment, except for cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother. A 2010 executive order by President Barack Obama also restricts federal funding for abortion under Affordable Care Act insurance plans.
On Friday, McMaster argued that the family planning veto is the closest way he can impact Planned Parenthood (which, again, only got about $82,000 in Medicaid money during 2016-2017.)
“I have stated many times that I am opposed to what Planned Parenthood is doing and the veto that I have is the most direct way to get to the money that is going to them —that is going directly to them for family planning services — which in Planned Parenthood land, that means abortions,” he told reporters.
S.C. Rep. and gubernatorial challenger James Smith issued a statement denouncing the veto Friday afternoon.
“Our state needs leadership, and instead we have a governor who wants to play games with our people’s lives,” Smith said. “This is a moral outrage, aside from being an insult to the intelligence of the voters of South Carolina.”
McMaster’s vetoes could be overturned when lawmakers return to Columbia in the fall.