Though the state legislature adjourned in June, Other Committee #1 continues South Carolina’s Planned Parenthood investigation.
Though the state legislature adjourned in June, several committees have been working through the summer and fall to devote sufficient time to issues that require study outside of the typical legislative time frame. One of these committees is a subcommittee of the Legislative Oversight Committee called Other Study #1. The subcommittee is dedicated to the study of “state agencies’ relationship with, funding of, and other activities relating to Planned Parenthood facilities and other abortion providers in South Carolina.” That Committee met for the third time last week.
Like the Select Investigative Panel of the US Congress, the SC House subcommittee investigation was empaneled in response to the gruesome videos produced by the Center for Medical Progress on the selling of fetal body parts by Planned Parenthood. Rep. Garry Smith laid out the case for a South Carolina investigation here, arguing that Planned Parenthood should not be receiving taxpayer funds for abortions (mostly through the SC Department of Health & Human Services), and that PP facilities should be operated within the law and in compliance with state clinic regulations (overseen by the SC Department of Health & Environmental Control).
But a larger question, as Americans United for Life has so expertly raised, is whether PP should be receiving any taxpayer funds for any purpose. If Planned Parenthood receives funds from state agencies, even for legitimate health services, is that not facilitating and even subsidizing the work of the organization as a whole? Isn’t PP just another business with slick lobbyists working its cronies in Congress and in the legislature to get its piece of the government pie when its services can be provided by thousands of other clinics not tainted by abortion?
Is this question fair? We think so.
Think back to the 1980s. A number of private and governmental organizations divested from businesses in South Africa, not for the nature of the legitimate businesses that operated there, but because support for the South African economy in essence facilitated the oppression of black South Africans through the system of apartheid.
That line of argument has been front and center in a comprehensive investigation conducted by the US Congress led by Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Not so much in South Carolina. The South Carolina subcommittee, chaired by retired circuit judge Rep. Gary Clary, has concerned itself almost entirely with transactions between PP and four state agencies—Health & Human Services, Health & Environmental Control, Corrections, and Social Services.
In stark contrast to Washington, the tenor of the S.C. subcommittee has been one of reluctance. One member of the panel all but said when thanking and releasing an agency head after his testimony that the committee had “distracted him from his real work long enough and he could now go back and do something productive.”
But embedded in an accusation that the work of a committee is superfluous would be that its proceedings would only ventilate common knowledge, that the key questions asked in the Garry Smith letter could be easily answered and that would be that.
But this hasn’t been the case.
The matter of abortion is particularly complicated for DHHS, with some procedures being paid for through Managed Care and others Fee for Service. There is also the art of separating the billing for the abortion procedure itself vs. follow up services or miscarriages. On September 30, the Director of HHS reported that 222 abortions (which in compliance with federal law were for rape, incest or life of the mother only) had been paid for with taxpayer funds during the period 2011-2015. By October 23, the Director had determined through Post Payment Review that the five-year figure was actually 29—four due to rape/incest and 25 tied to the life of the mother. Twenty-one were performed in Charleston and seven in Greenville. Of the total, eight were performed on girls under 17 years of age. Based in DHHS reports, we do not know where the 29 taxpayer-funded abortions were performed—PP clinics, other clinics, or hospitals.
Question #1 for the legislature becomes whether an abortion should be performed using taxpayer funds for any reason. The 2011-2015 taxpayer funded abortion figure could have been zero.
Question #2 for the legislature is whether the state budget should allow non-abortion funding for Planned Parenthood in SC.
This takes us back to the South Africa divestment argument. Other services provided by PP the state is paying for serves to enable PP, to help their bottom line as an organization/business. For 2011-2015, PP was paid $297,904 through the SC DHHS for services including pap smears, screenings, family planning, office visits and birth control.
Stay tuned for the 3nd question. We’ll raise it next week!
Dr. Oran Smith
Former President & CEO
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