South Carolina almost experienced a setback this week, when the House budget committee proposal did not include anything to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving tax funding, and there was no indication that the pro-life “family caucus” was preparing to do anything about it.
Thanks to your prayers and calls, several pro-life Republicans immediately stepped up to the plate and passed an amendment to the state budget to defund Planned Parenthood (with caveats)!
The events of the last 48 hours are an amazing story that demonstrates the power of God “over the affairs of men” and validates the effectiveness we can have when we embrace the power of confrontation in politics.
Of all the political fronts in the war to protect life, few are as cut-and-dry for me as defunding Planned Parenthood. They are an evil organization that primarily exists to kill the unborn (aka “abortion services”), and while they’re at it, sell the parts of babies to cold-hearted “scientists” and pharmaceutical companies for even more profit.
This issue is personal for us in South Carolina. Planned Parenthood is expanding, having recently added a second facility.
Fortunately, a couple years after the revelations of Planned Parenthood’s latest scandals, they were for the first time ever completely defunded in 2018 state budget. This was thanks to the efforts of pro-life House Republicans and Gov. Henry McMaster, who ordered all funding for all services to be cut off by executive order. He then applied for a federal waiver to protect his authority to do so, and vetoed family planning service funding altogether in the 2018 state budget.
This was after House Republicans, led by the “family caucus” chairman Rep. John McCravy (R-Greenwood), passed a budget amendment removing all funding, despite stiff opposition from Republican House leaders (such as then-budget chairman Rep. Brian White). Even though the Senate removed his amendment, it provided Gov. McMaster the nudge he needed to engage on this issue.
Monday Morning: Sounding the alarm
Fast-forward to this year. It was no surprise that House Leadership ignored Gov. McMaster’s executive budget request to add language to completely defund Planned Parenthood this year. After reviewing the House Ways & Means committee’s proposed budget, I could find no reference to defunding Planned Parenthood. Just to confirm, I met with the Governor’s staff on Monday and obtained a copy of their proposed amendment to the budget and requested an update on where things stood with the executive order, waiver application, and lawsuits.
What did come as a very alarming surprise to me was when I learned that apparently none of the pro-life leaders in the State House had any plans to introduce this amendment which the Governor had requested. Because of his past leadership, I fully expected Rep. McCravy to lead this again, but was told that he didn’t plan to do anything on Planned Parenthood in order to give his “heartbeat bill the best chance of passing” in the weeks to come.
There was very little time. In less than 2 hours, the House would convene and begin debating the budget.
I’ve seen God do some amazing things. Nothing is too hard for him! So I prayed.
Then I sent this email to tell you what was happening, asking you to 1) pray, 2) call the people that should lead on this issue, 3) spread the word, and 4) watch what happens.
Monday Afternoon: Getting to work
From this point, I watched and waited. Legislators’ cell phones started ringing off the hook during the first day of budget deliberations. Someone whispered to me that Rep. McCravy was upset with me for telling people to call his cell number.
Before long, Rep. Josiah Magnuson came to me and said that he had been talking with his friends in the “family caucus” and that he was getting ready to file an amendment to defund Planned Parenthood. I told him that it was good news! I gave him a copy of the Governor’s proposed amendment, and suggested that he touch base with Rep. Ashley Trantham, a new pro-life member who had expressed interest to me recently in speaking out for life. He did, and she filed the amendment with the support and backing of Reps. McCravy, Magnuson, and others.
Then, I received this text message:
I began to investigate, and spoke with the SC DHHS Director Joshua Baker to learn whether the Governor’s efforts to defund Planned Parenthood were successful last year. It’s complicated, but here’s a rough outline of the timeline that the director walked me through:
Gov. McMaster issued an executive order instructing the SC DHHS director to exclude Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid family planning service provider network. This affected primarily the Columbia Planned Parenthood center. The director complied immediately.
Planned Parenthood responded with a lawsuit.
Six weeks after the initial defunding, the 4th Circuit Court issued an injunction ordering Planned Parenthood to be restored to the family planning services network. The director complied.
The Governor requested a federal waiver allowing the exclusion of Planned Parenthood, and as a stop-gap measure, line-item vetoed the family planning funding in the budget. The legislature did not override his veto.
Planned Parenthood responded with another lawsuit, and the director of SC DHHS complied with the court’s injunction.
The Federal Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are considering the waiver but have not yet decided to grant it.
What legal outcome does this suggest that legislative defunding of Planned Parenthood will have this year? One possibility was raised that they would be defunded, but then the courts would intervene again. There is also the possibility that Planned Parenthood could make deals with their very expensive attorneys to get a “cut” of the attorney fees to stand in for monetary damages, thus getting their funding through litigation.
Another point that is sometimes brought up is that Planned Parenthood does not receive funds for “abortion services” per se—they receive funds for “family planning” services. However, any funds that help keep the lights on enables Planned Parenthood to fulfill their primary mission, which is—without dispute—abortion. Furthermore, Planned Parenthood’s history and past scandals should disqualify them from receiving any taxpayer funding for any reason, especially since there are many other alternative providers for the same services that are available through Medicaid.
I encouraged Rep. Ashley Trantham and Rep. John McCravy to stay the course. No matter what the courts do, it is wrong for us lawmakers give our permission to fund Planned Parenthood for ANY reason with your tax dollars. She responded by remarking that “you cannot put a price on a child’s life” and that she planned to follow through with the amendment.
The rest of the story…
Two facts came to light later the next day:
Ohio’s defunding of Planned Parenthood was upheld in Federal court on 3/13/2019 - an encouraging and timely legal precedent which could bolster South Carolina’s legal case.
President Trump signed H.J.Res. 43 on 4/13/2017, nullifying the Federal DHHS rule against defunding Planned Parenthood. This appears to bolster South Carolina’s legal case for defunding, and may serve to protect our federal Medicaid funding overall should we be forced to non-comply with the 4th Circuit Court.
Tuesday: Political blowback
You guys were so zealous in calling Rep. John McCravy, Rep. Ashley Trantham, Rep. Adam Morgan, Rep. Anne Thayer, Rep. Bill Herbkersman, and Rep. Murrell Smith that by lunchtime on Tuesday, I’d heard from each one of them that they had been overwhelmed by all the calls, voicemails, and text messages.
They weren’t very pleased at all. They said that they got calls all through the night, in the wee hours of the morning, and ended up turning their phones off. One Rep even missed a call that her daughter had gone into labor because she’d turned her phone off because of all the calls.
When the House Republican Caucus met for lunch on Tuesday, they raked me over the coals for putting out their numbers, blaming me for their phones blowing up at all hours of the day and night.
In particular, Rep. Murrell Smith and Rep. Adam Morgan were quite livid with me. They and others (Rep. Micah Caskey practically yelled at me), stood up during the closed-door meeting to denounce my actions. They said things like:
“I should have talked to them before sending out an email blast”
“I didn’t ask their permission to share their cell number”
“I caused them great inconvenience and loss of sleep because of the calls they got”
“I caused them embarrassment with their church by accusing them of being cowards or not supporting life”
“I attacked our own side, other pro-life members of the State House”
“I caused division within the Republican party”
“I could have just introduced the amendment myself without dragging everyone else into it”
Several echoed the refrain that “enough is enough” and that I should no longer be allowed to be a part of the House Republican Caucus.
So I responded as calmly as I could:
There was so little time that the only way for calls or messages to get through in time was via cell phone.
It surprised me that anyone would have an issue with having their cell number out there - it’s on all my campaign literature, business cards, the State House website, and practically anyone in the state has easy access to me. It isn’t a problem.
I apologized to each person who received calls outside of normal hours - that was not my intention.
I restated what was in the email that I sent out: “be gentle” and “pro-life legislators…appear to be either unwilling, unprepared, or afraid to step up and lead.”
(That was actually more charitable than what I’d heard rumored to be the real reason, that McCravy’s “family caucus” had cut a deal with the Speaker of the House Jay Lucas over the “heartbeat bill”—something the Speaker Lucas seemed to confirm in his remarks during the meeting!)
If anyone had been making ANY plans whatsoever to challenge Planned Parenthood’s funding in the budget BEFORE I sent the email Monday morning, I promised to apologize to them and spread the word. No one came forward (including Rep. Adam Morgan).
Beyond that, I just faced the heat and remained calm. It made the victory for life that evening all the sweeter.
Throughout Tuesday, I observed Rep. McCravy furiously typing away and writing down notes, apparently preparing for the debate. I was thankful that as an attorney he was standing by with all the data and arguments by Rep. Trantham’s side.
As the time for the debate neared, staff approached me for input on potential changes to the amendment original proposed by Gov. McMaster. I provided some input to fix some problems, and expressed that while it didn’t go as far as I would have liked, I would vote for it. There seemed to be some concern that I might be working on an amendment of my own. I assured staff that I was fully in support of Rep. Trantham’s and Rep. McCravy’s efforts and willing to help them in any way.
When the debate began, Rep. Ashley Trantham bravely stood and explained the purpose of the amendment, and withstood the withering barrage of questions from pro-death Democrats. There’s nothing like having a calm, pro-life woman to defuse many of the liberal arguments against protecting life! She did a great job.
Next, Rep. McCravy attempted to lay out the timeline and history of SC’s efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, but pro-death Democrats interrupted him constantly with procedural motions designed to either kill the amendment or at least use up his speaking time. I was able at one point to use a point of order to put a stop to one Democrat’s efforts to demean Rep. McCravy, and to force the discussion to stay on topic.
While I listened to the ongoing debate, which was mostly one-sided as Democrats rose one after another to defend Planned Parenthood and abortion in general, I prepared a few notes of my own and finally rose near the end to remind the Legislative Black Caucus of a few points from black history in America that they’d conveniently left out. I spoke of how Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood with a eugenics-based agenda, and how early civil rights activists were opposed—and in some cases victims of—Planned Parenthood. I told the story of how former Planned Parenthood Director Abby Johnson turned her back and became a pro-life activist after witnessing a 13-week old baby fight for its life during an ultrasound-guided abortion, and how Martin Luther King, Jr’s own niece Alveda King was a leader in the pro-life movement today.
Others stood and spoke, including Rep. Garry Smith who has staunchly defended life and supported many good causes for as long as I have known him.
Then, this happened:
Thank you for praying and calling! Despite the blowback that I personally received from the caucus, you made it so hot that no one—not even House Budget Chairman Murrell Smith, nor Speaker of the House Jay Lucas—dared to stop this amendment.
Conclusion and Lessons Learned
Confrontational tactics work, my friends. These are powerful and potent weapons, but they must be used responsibly.
Lines that should never be crossed when using confrontational tactics:
Distorting the facts for sensational purposes
Calling names or impugning motives
Using more pressure than is needed
As far as this particular legislative battle was concerned, I am confident that I stayed within these lines, protests of certain of my colleagues in the House notwithstanding.
I did learn that calls to cell numbers can get out of hand. While one would hope that concerned citizens would exercise basic, common-sense courtesies such as not calling in the middle of the night, this is not always the case!
At the end of the day, I have not one regret. This issue is too important to let slide by. Inconvenient calls from constituents are part of the job, an occupational hazard of being an elected official.
No matter how loud politicians squeal and denounce, confrontational politics works. It’s high time we conservatives started using these tactics to defend life, liberty, and property—and defunding Planned Parenthood is an important battle in the war to protect the humanity of the unborn.