News Law and Policy

South Carolina Bill Targets Viagra to Get People Talking About Anti-Choice Laws

Jenn Stanley

Like in many states with GOP-majority legislatures, anti-choice lawmakers in South Carolina have made life very difficult for those seeking abortions.

South Carolina’s legislative sessions begin next week, and on the agenda in the Republican-dominated house could be a much talked about pre-filed bill regarding men’s reproductive health.

State Rep. Mia McLeod (D-Richland) pre-filed a bill in December mandating that men seeking medication for erectile dysfunction jump through the same legal hoops as women seeking basic reproductive health care, including abortion care.

“Oh, I don’t think it’ll pass,” McLeod told South Carolina’s NBC affiliate, WCBD. “I really just want to broaden the discussion and get people thinking about and talking about some of the issues that women face who are seeking legal abortion services in this state.”

Creating a dialogue that focuses on men’s reproductive health would be a welcome change, Monika Carey, the South Carolina state field coordinator for Provide, told Rewire. Provide educates social service and health-care providers to help treat and refer women seeking abortions in low-resource rural and Southern communities.

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Anti-choice lawmakers have strangled access to abortion in South Carolina, where 93 percent of the counties have no abortion clinics, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Like in many states with GOP-majority legislatures, anti-choice lawmakers in South Carolina have made life very difficult for those seeking abortions.

These kind of medically unnecessary regulations are exactly what McLeod’s bill addresses. Among the bill’s many proposed regulations are a 24-hour waiting period for men seeking ED medication. A patient would also have to submit a notarized affidavit from a sexual partner affirming he has experienced symptoms of ED in the past 90 days.

“I personally find it to be quite amusing,” Carey told Rewire. “I have every intention of talking about it as if it is going pass, especially around the men that I encounter in the work that I do, to make them think. What if you really did have to go through all these steps just to get something that could help you control your reproductive health.”

The state has three abortion clinics. Republican Gov. Nikki Haley last year requested a health department investigation into the clinics after the widely discredited, highly edited videos released by an anti-choice front group called the Center for Medical Progress. The attack videos alleged that Planned Parenthood engaged in the illegal sale of fetal tissue. GOP-launched federal and state investigations into Planned Parenthood turned up no wrongdoing.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control suspended two of the clinics’ licenses and fined them a combined $10,250. Sanctions were lifted and neither were forced to close, but the director of the agency told a South Carolina house panel that it would pursue additional fines that could amount to nearly $51,000, according to The State.

Asked what she thought was the biggest obstacle to people seeking and providing abortion care in South Carolina, Carey didn’t cite access.

“Judgment. I think that’s the biggest hurdle,” Carey told Rewire. “Many health-care professionals I speak to in my line of work say that they would provide abortions or refer women to someone who could, but they don’t want to be known as the ‘abortion doctor.'”

When she pre-filed the bill, McLeod said she tried to “make it as invasive, as intrusive, as hypocritical and unnecessary as possible to make the point,” according to WCBD. Carey applauds McLeod’s efforts and hopes that it can soften some of that judgment.

“Women are smart,” Carey said. “Hopefully this bill will help lawmakers begin to value healthy women making healthy choices for themselves.”

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