NEWS BRIEFS:  Abortion politics; Dissecting a meltdown; Pressure play

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Abortion rights supporters protested outside the Statehouse in 2016. (Photo provided.)

Governor halts public funding to state’s three abortion providers

Gov. Henry McMaster on Friday morning issued an executive order halting any local or state funds that go toward the state’s three abortion providers. He is also seeking to exclude the clinics from the state’s Medicaid provider network.

“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,” McMaster said in a statement. “Taxpayer dollars must not directly or indirectly subsidize abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.”

UPDATE, 8/28:  Statements from Planned Parenthood:

Jenny Black, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic: “Today’s executive order issued by Governor McMaster hurts South Carolinians in the name of politics. While he throws women under the bus to score political points, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic will continue to focus on providing the wide-range of accessible, affordable health care services that our patients, and his constituents, rely on. We will not stop fighting to protect our patients’ access to health care.”

Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, chief medical officer, Planned Parenthood Federation of America: “This is not over, and we’ll leave no stone unturned to protect our patients’ access to health care. Nearly 4,000 men, women, and young people in South Carolina turn to Planned Parenthood for birth control, cancer screenings, and other preventive care each year. For many of our patients, we’re the only health care provider they see. Every person deserves the chance to lead a healthy life, no matter who you are or where you live.”

Only one of the three clinics is owned by Planned Parenthood, which operates out of Columbia. Charleston Women’s Medical Center and Greenville Women’s Clinic are the other two clinics.

The governor also directed the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to make a public listing of other women’s health and family planning providers operating within a 25-mile radius of any abortion-providing clinic.

— Lindsay Street, Statehouse correspondent

Three things learned this week about the nuclear debacle

A private utility and a public utility faced lawmaker scrutiny this week in hearings to uncover how construction of two nuclear reactors missed deadlines and went over budget until both entities called it quits. Thousands lost their jobs and ratepayers and taxpayers are potentially on the hook for billions of dollars of losses with no return.

With dozens of stories being written around the state about the fallout from the foundered project at V.C. Summer plant in Jenkinsville, here are three of the big developments from the past week:

Heads.  Heads are not likely to roll, but perhaps one may resign. After House Speaker Jay Lucas called for the firing of the state’s utility regulation agency director, Gov. Henry McMaster said he wouldn’t ask for Dukes Scott’s resignation. However, news broke Thursday that Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter may leave his post.  (

Flaws.  While Westinghouse billed the reactors as more economical and quicker to construct than any reactor before, an insider said the design was flawed and the company refused to accommodate changes. All of this led to making the project become the most expensive and difficult-to-build reactor than any before it.

Schedules. A generic construction schedule was used to estimate timelines and costs in the project. A special House committee hearing uncovered this finding Wednesday. Witnesses told lawmakers that SCANA knew the schedule wasn’t realistic, and state regulators approved it because of lawmakers’ passage of the now-controversial 2007 Base Load Review Act. This revelation was previously reported on this summer.

— Lindsay Street, Statehouse correspondent

Waiting for an opening

A Mount Pleasant town councilman has a not-so-subtle message for suspended Rep. Jim Merrill of Daniel Island:  I want your seat.

Councilman Mark Smith this week announced he will not run for re-election because he wants to serve in the Statehouse.  The problem, however, is that the seat is occupied right now by Merrill, even though he has been suspended pending outcome of indictments stemming from a Statehouse corruption investigation.

“The great people of Mount Pleasant, Daniel Island, Hanahan, Wando and Goose Creek deserve a strong voice in the State House,” Smith said in a release.  “Unfortunately, we have had no seat at the table for the last year — no voice during the budget or the infrastructure debate; I am running to change that.”

Two other GOP state legislators, Sen. John Courson of Columbia and Rick Quinn of Lexington County, also are suspended from serving while still occupying their seats.  Like Merrill, they’re contesting the charges filed against them.

So far this year, the General Assembly has lost seven other members for various reasons.

In January, Rep. Chris Corley, R-Graniteville, resigned following a guilty plea on domestic violence charges.  Later that month, Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, created an open seat after becoming lieutenant governor.

In February, Rep. Joe Neal, a Richland County Democrat, died unexpectedly.  Later in the spring, another Democrat, Harold Mitchell, resigned for health reasons.

In June, Ralph Norman resigned his House seat after he won a congressional election.  Also that month, Rep. Seth Whipper, D-North Charleston, resigned to become a magistrate judge.

And earlier this month, Rep. Mike Ryhal, R-Horry, resigned for family reasons.

— Andy Brack, editor and publisher

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