News Sexual Health

South Carolina Senate Committee Approves HPV Vaccine Bill, Amid Opposition

Martha Kempner

The South Carolina Senate Medical Affairs Committee passed a bill on Thursday that would allow—but not require—the state to create brochures about the HPV vaccine and provide vaccines to underinsured seventh graders. The bill, however, faces opposition, including from the governor.

On Thursday, the Medical Affairs Committee of the South Carolina Senate passed a bill aimed at encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV). The bill would allow, but not require, the state to publish brochures about the vaccine. It would also allow—but, again, not require—the state to offer free HPV vaccines to young people entering seventh grade who are not covered by private insurance or the federally funded Vaccines for Children program. The bill, however, faces opposition from many lawmakers in the state, including the governor.

If the bill is signed into law, an estimated 2,400 students would be eligible for the vaccine, but provision of the vaccines would depend on the availability of federal and state funding. Sen. Ray Cleary (R-Georgetown), chair of the Medical Affairs Committee, told the Associated Press that he supported the bill because it is in everyone’s best interest to educate parents, so they can make an informed decision. He went on to express frustrations with critics who are trying to argue that the bill would make the vaccine mandatory. “What part of optional do they not read in the bill? I don’t understand,” he said. “The bill says it is not mandated. It is an informational thing that DHEC [the Department of Health and Environmental Control] will provide to let people know about it.”

One opponent who seems to be arguing that the bill mandates the vaccine is Gov. Nikki Haley. Her spokesperson, Doug Mayer, said, “As a mother of a teenage daughter, Governor Haley, like the majority of South Carolinians, believes that health decisions like this are best left up to parents and doctors—not state government.”

In 2012, the governor vetoed a bill that also would have offered HPV vaccines. As a state representative, however, Haley sponsored a bill that would have implemented an opt-out vaccine program for seventh-grade girls.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV, and about 14 million people become newly infected each year. Two strains of the virus, 16 and 18, are responsible for 70 percent of all cases of cervical cancer. Approximately 12,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and about 4,000 die. HPV can also cause cancer of the penis and anus, and is responsible for a recent increase in cases of head and neck cancers.

HPV is easily spread from infected skin to uninfected skin. Transmission of HPV can be prevented by condoms, but only if the infected skin is in an area covered by the condom. If it is on an area such as a man’s scrotum, condoms cannot help reduce transmission.

Transmission can also be prevented by the two available vaccines—Gardasil and Cervarix. Research shows the vaccines are working. A 2013 study that looked at the impact of Gardasil found that despite the fact that only half of teen girls had gotten one dose of the vaccine and fewer than a third had gotten the recommended three doses, the proportion of teen girls infected with the strains of HPV that the vaccine addresses has dropped by 56 percent.

The bill faces opposition in the full senate, including from those members of the Medical Affairs Committee who have already voted against the bill once. Sen. Shane Martin (R-Spartanburg) said he was worried the bill would eventually need funding. He also told the AP, “Our students shouldn’t be forced to do anything like that. It’s not an airborne disease and abstinence works every time.”

News Law and Policy

Anti-Immigrant Bill Advances in North Carolina

Tina Vasquez

The bill may become law by the end of the legislative session Saturday, American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Acting Executive Director Sarah Preston told Rewire.

North Carolina’s HB 100, a bill that targets undocumented communities and aims to penalize cities not complying with local immigration laws, was sent to the house rules committee this week after passing the senate.

The bill could become law by the end of the legislative session Saturday, American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Acting Executive Director Sarah Preston told Rewire.

HB 100 expands on HB 318, the Protect North Carolina Workers Act, signed into law last year, which requires employers doing business with a “public entity” to use the federal E-Verify system to authenticate the citizenship status of job applicants, and bars government agencies and local law enforcement from verifying a person’s identity or residence using consular or embassy documents.

HB 100 will prohibit an exception in HB 318 that allows law enforcement to accept identification provided through local programs such as the FaithAction ID Initiative, which provides identification for any resident in the community “who may not have access to government issued forms of ID.”

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

As ThinkProgress reported, these local ID programs were created “in partnership with law enforcement officials precisely because police wanted to make cities safer … FaithAction International House realized that undocumented immigrants were afraid to call the police when crimes occurred, fearing officers would arrest them instead because they lacked identification.”

Another bill introduced in May, SB 868, aims to prohibit law enforcement officials from being able to accept these IDs and under HB 100, these programs, popular in larger cities like Greensboro, would be illegal.

“Removing the ability to use these community IDs makes undocumented immigrants more likely to be targets of crime, because it makes them fearful to come forward and interact with law enforcement,” said Preston. “People who want to take advantage of the community know this community has very little recourse.”

What’s “incredibly troubling,” Preston said, is the reporting piece of the bill. The law allows anonymous tipsters to call the attorney general’s office and make complaints against their city, town, or local law enforcement alleging it is not following local immigration laws. As CityLab reported, a second reporting measure allows any person to “file a lawsuit asking a court to decide whether a city or county is non-compliant with state law.”

If the attorney general confirms a report that a city is not complying with the state’s anti-immigrant policies, whether these violations are intentional or inadvertent, the city’s transportation and education funding will be withdrawn for the year.

“These complaints would be anonymous and confidential and could take shape in many different ways, like someone at the county clerk’s office helping an undocumented person access records or seeing an undocumented person in court that a North Carolina resident doesn’t think is being treated as badly as they should be,” Preston said.

The attorney general would investigate “no matter how frivolous or incomplete it may be,” Preston told Rewire.

HB 100 comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s split ruling on Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), which would have provided an estimated 3.6 million undocumented parents of U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident children with a renewable work permit and exemption from deportation for two years. At a time when advocates are calling on cities to provide more local protections for undocumented immigrants in light of the ruling, Preston said this measure represents the “unnecessary targeting” of a community that has already been under attackboth nationally and in North Carolina—for years.

A recent series of immigration raids hit North Carolina’s undocumented communities, which comprise 7.6 percent of the population, hard. The state doesn’t have any sanctuary cities, which are regions that do not work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the detainment and deportation of undocumented community members.

HB 100 would actually make sanctuary cities illegal, explained Preston. And the inability by undocumented community members to access any form of identification would erode any relationship local law enforcement has been able to build with this community.

“I can’t answer why the state is going after such a vulnerable population,” Preston said. “I think it’s wrong and misguided, but I don’t have an answer. I wish I knew.”

News Law and Policy

South Carolina GOP Launches Discriminatory ‘Bathroom Bill’ Attack

Teddy Wilson

“We have this more conservative legislature that really understands the power of using fear as a tactic to drive political wedges to further divide communities and further divide votes,” said Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. “This gives them an open door to move their agenda forward.”

The South Carolina legislature failed to pass a North Carolina-style anti-transgender bathroom discrimination law, but GOP legislators in the state introduced a bill this week targeting a school district that implemented a transgender-inclusive policy.

Republican lawmakers throughout the South have introduced legislation that targets the transgender community and attempts to limit transgender people’s access to bathrooms and other facilities.

Several of the proposals have used similar language to a North Carolina GOP-backed law passed in March. When a South Carolina lawmaker introduced a similar bill in April, it was met with fierce opposition.

State Sen. Lee Bright (R-Spartanburg) introduced S 1203, which would have prohibited local municipalities from creating “local laws, ordinances, orders, or other regulations” that would “allow a person to use a multiple occupancy bathroom or changing facility regardless of the person’s biological sex.”

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

The measure would have prohibited government buildings and public schools from implementing a transgender-inclusive bathroom policy.

Bright said that he’s against “men who claim to be women” using the same restrooms as children, reported the Associated Press. “I don’t believe transgender people are pedophiles,” Bright said. “I think grown adult men would use this as protection to violate women in the restroom.”

Many of those who testified opposed the bill during a committee hearing.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said the bill was an attack on transgender people that could come with negative economic consequences, reported Reuters. “This bill is an undisguised attack on some of our most talented and most vulnerable citizens,” Benjamin said.

The anti-transgender bill died in committee.

Lawmakers on the committee said they didn’t “need to make the mistakes” made by North Carolina Republicans, and Gov. Nikki Haley (R) said the law wasn’t necessary

“When I look at South Carolina, we look at our situations, we’re not hearing of anybody’s religious liberties that are being violated, and we’re again not hearing any citizens that feel like they’re being violated in terms of freedoms,” Haley said, reported the Washington Post.

Despite the failure of Bright’s bill, lawmakers still seem intent on creating discriminatory bathroom policy.

S 1306, sponsored by Sen. Lawrence Grooms (R-Charleston) and Sen. Paul Campbell (R-Goose Creek), would prohibit “a person of one sex” from using the restrooms, locker rooms, showers or any other facility “designated for use by the opposite sex.”

The law would apply to Berkeley County school facilities, located in the Charleston metropolitan area. Berkeley County this spring became South Carolina’s first public school district to implement a case-by-case transgender-inclusive bathroom policy.

Grooms told the Associated Press that his bill is intended to require the Berkeley County School District (BCSD) to follow the same policies as other school districts in the state. “What I’ve done for the children of Berkeley County and their parents is to give them some degree of stability about what the policies will be,” Grooms said.

BCSD spokesperson Katie Orvin told the Post and Courier that the school district does not have a written policy addressing bathroom usage.

“BCSD implements current anti-discrimination policies under the guidance of the U.S. Department of Education and in accordance with Title IX,” Orvin said.

The Berkeley County School Board held the BCSD decision after a public hearing and a closed-door meeting with the district’s legal counsel.

Board Chair Jim Hayes read a statement after the hearing, saying the school district would “maintain and respect the privacy rights of all its students” while permitting transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.

“School administrators will continue to manage requests made by, or on behalf of, transgender students in reference to the use of restroom facilities for the remainder of the 2015-2016 school year in hopes of receiving a clearly defined direction from the Courts prior to the start of the upcoming school year,” the statement said.

Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, a national grassroots organization, told Rewire that the legislative movement targeting transgender people is “rooted in fear.”

“We have this more conservative legislature that really understands the power of using fear as a tactic to drive political wedges to further divide communities and further divide votes,” Simpson said. “This gives them an open door to move their agenda forward.”

Simpson said that attempts to target the transgender community is part of a larger strategy of targeting marginalized people.

“How can we believe our legislators have our best interests at heart, if you are going to publicly and intentionally do something that is attacking the vulnerable of our society?” Simpson said.