Reproductive rights take center stage at Statehouse

Reproductive health advocates from across South Carolina echoed many of the same messages being heard at the national level when they hosted their annual legislative action day on Wednesday, March 28. The 10,000 member grassroots coalition Tell Them presented a “Reproductive Bill of Rights” to lawmakers calling for uncensored reproductive health education and access to services for all South Carolinians.
The “Bill of Rights” was designed to challenge mounting legislation in South Carolina that puts basic health rights at risk.  Some state lawmakers want to take away access to birth control, in-vitro fertilization (IVF), emergency contraception for rape or incest victims, and even undermine the standard of care established with the Hippocratic Oath.
“The recent national focus on reproductive health rights has inspired many everyday citizens to learn more about their own state policies,” said Tell Them member Deborah Billings, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Health Promotion, Education and Behavior at the Arnold School of Public Health; Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of South Carolina. “It’s troubling to see how many long-standing health protections are in jeopardy in South Carolina.”
During the last three legislative sessions, 41 ideologically motivated bills related to women’s reproductive health were introduced in the South Carolina General Assembly including the controversial “Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Act” (H.3408). If passed, this legislation would allow health care professionals and institutions to use their personal ideology as a reason to deny patients information and services. That means any provider could legally interfere with decisions made by a patient and a doctor. For example, a pharmacist could legally refuse to fill any prescription (including birth control, HIV medications, and even cancer medications) based on personal values versus what is in the best interest of the patient.
“Our Reproductive Bill of Rights is about a person’s ability to make decisions about their own health and the health of their families,” said Emma Davidson, Tell Them Program Manager. “We will ask lawmakers to protect these rights and in doing so create a stronger, healthier South Carolina.”
While previous efforts in South Carolina have focused on issues like sex education, funding for DHEC family clinics, and pregnancy prevention programs, these recent policy attempts are reaching into areas that compromise basic health care. Experts point to similar movements across the country to restrict health rights, specifically women’s rights. Currently, 13 states allow some health care providers to refuse to provide services related to contraception; 18 states allow some health care providers to refuse to provide sterilization services; and a recent ballot initiative in Mississippi sought to ban many forms of birth control and assisted reproduction like in-vitro fertilization.
To learn more about the “Reproductive Bill of Rights” and legislation currently being considered in South Carolina, please visit www.tellthemsc.org.

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