Staff reports | With South Carolina ranking among the bottom nationally in the number of women elected to the General Assembly, it’s not surprising males occupy more than five out of every six legislative seats.
But does trend carry over at the county level, adjunct professor Dan Ruff of Midlands Technical College wondered. The answer, it seems, is generally no.
In a paper published this month, Ruff hypothesized that women have a higher rate of winning county office than a position in the legislature, based on election results. While women comprised just 15 percent of members of the legislature in 2016, 83 percent of probate judges were women last year, as well as 89 percent of clerks of court, 63 percent of auditors and 61 percent of treasurers. Only 15 percent of county council members and 16 percent of coroners were women, the study found. There are no women sheriffs in the state – and haven’t been in the last three decades.
“More women have consistently for decades been elected at higher rates to the county positions of probate judge, clerk of court, auditor and treasurer than to their rates of election to the state legislature,” Ruff wrote. “Women have held a majority of these positions in the counties of the state for much of the last three decades.
“Apparently, the assumptions of travel to Columbia away from home with family considerations, with increasing costs of running competitive races for the legislature as deterrents seem logical for many political ambitious women. The data did not confirm the hypothesis for the positions of coroner, sheriff and county council.”
Mixed news for S.C. women from the House
This past week was International Women’s Day across the planet, and to some extent, in South Carolina, too.
Some House members are taking seemingly different approaches on women’s health, access to health care, and their reproductive rights.
First, a subcommittee voted to recommend a bill that would allow women to receive yearly reimbursements from health care plans for contraception, with its supporters saying it made it easier for some women to get the medicine.
Vicki Ringer, state spokesman for Planned Parenthood, applauded the “common sense” of this measure, adding, “In situations when a physician deems appropriate, a year’s supply of a preferred contraceptive will allow a woman to more easily adhere to her birth control routine and decrease the unnecessary logistical hassles involved in renewing her prescription, ultimately reducing unintended pregnancies in South Carolina.”
But then came the organization’s reminder about a January bill that would tighten restrictions on medical abortions and create criminal and civil penalties for providers. Ringer said the measure would “restrict a woman’s ability to make deeply personal pregnancy decisions.”
Next week during budget debates in the House, lawmakers will encounter measures to prohibit some abortion funding from the state employee health care program, but also assist in the cost of adoption.