Pro-lifers Urge SC Governor to Veto All Abortion Funding

By Danielle Gillespie | July 7, 2008 | 8:04 PM EDT

( - South Carolina's Republican, pro-life governor is being pressured to veto the portion of the state's 2004-2005 budget that allows taxpayer funding of birth control, as well as abortions related to saving the life of the mother or when rape or incest are involved.

Gov. Mark Sanford's decision is complicated by the fact that South Carolina risks losing Medicaid funding from the federal government if it decides to cut off all funding of abortions. In 1981, Congress revised an earlier ban (Hyde Amendment) on the state funding of abortion and required states to pay for the procedure in instances involving the life of the mother. In 1993, Congress revised the language of the Hyde Amendment again to include cases of rape and incest.

But Steve Lefemine, director of Columbia Christians for Life, said he hopes the governor will veto all forms of abortion.

"A man in good conscience should not sign something that uses state money to shed innocent blood," Lefemine said. "I think we should fear God before we fear man."

The state's proposed budget passed the South Carolina House of Representatives untouched, but in the state Senate, Republican David Thomas of Greenville sponsored six amendments to eliminate payments for services such as chemical (birth control pills, morning after pill, etc.) and surgical abortions.

On May 20, GOP Sen. Hugh Leatherman of Florence successfully moved to kill all six pro-life amendments on the Senate floor, and pro-life conservatives turned their attention to Sanford.

Republican state Rep. Liston Barfield of Conway said the congressional language dealing with Medicaid funding to the states had a big influence in how South Carolina lawmakers voted.

"We don't want to do anything to jeopardize the Medicaid money," Barfield said. "We would be in a mess if we took that money away. We couldn't take care of our seniors."

South Carolina's State Employee Health Insurance Plan, a program managed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and Medicaid offer funding for abortions under terms of the Hyde Amendment.

Although funding is offered for these services, surgical abortions under terms of the Hyde Amendment are rarely performed in South Carolina, said Michael Sponhour, director of public affairs for the state's Budget and Control Board. The State Employee Health Insurance Plan funded 10 abortions from a pool of more than 300,000 clients during the 2002-2003 fiscal year, Sponhour added.

If Sanford decides not to veto the abortion provision in the budget, Barfield said he and other legislators plan to work with Congress to eliminate the requirements stipulated by the Hyde Amendment for the next budget year.

"We are hoping we can convince the federal government to take that requirement out," Barfield said. "If they take that string out, we would be okay, and we could do it then."

Sanford could sign or veto the budget at any point before the legislature convenes again in January 2004, according to Sanford's spokesman Chris Drummond.

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