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A Planned Parenthood clinic West Ashley. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

An attempt to ban South Carolina abortion clinics from receiving taxpayer money in the form of Medicaid payments has been thwarted for the time being. 

U.S. District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis granted a preliminary injunction against Gov. Henry McMaster's ban, which originated in an executive order he issued in July.

The temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction allows Medicaid patients to continue to use their insurance at Planned Parenthood clinics in South Carolina until a final legal decision is made on the lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood after McMaster's executive order.

Jenny Black, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said she and her organization are thrilled by the Lewis' decision.

"The health services Planned Parenthood South Atlantic provides are fundamental to the state’s health care safety net, and we look forward to continuing to provide a full range of life-saving preventive health care to anyone who walks through our doors, no matter their income or insurance status," Black stated. "Today’s ruling demonstrates that playing political games with the health and dignity of women and families should not have any place in the everyday lives of South Carolinians."

Brian Symmes, a spokesperson for McMaster, said the governor is disappointed in the decision.

"But he will continue to do all that he can to make sure no taxpayer dollars either directly or indirectly subsidize abortions in South Carolina," Symmes stated.

The governor also recently directed the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services to request a waiver from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that, if granted, would make abortion providers ineligible to offer health care services to Medicaid beneficiaries.

"(He) will continue to fight until every South Carolinian can know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that their taxpayer dollars are not being used to perform abortions," Symmes stated.

Joshua Baker, director of the state's Health and Human Services department said his agency would continue to push forward with the waiver application and through the court system to implement McMaster's orders. 

"We remain focused on pursuing a comprehensive approach to perinatal care that manages a range of health services for our beneficiaries, supports clinical practices that integrate care, and promotes providers that strive to improve the overall health and well-being of both parents and children," Baker said. 

McMaster has been vocal about stripping Planned Parenthood of any government money.

He vetoed $16 million in family planning funds in July from the Medicaid agency’s budget to stop a small fraction of it from ending up at Planned Parenthood. One week later, he instructed Medicaid to continue funding family planning but asked agency officials to exclude Planned Parenthood clinics from its provider network.

While government money may not be used to pay for abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or when a mother’s life is jeopardized by her pregnancy, abortion clinics in South Carolina offer other health care services, such as pelvic exams, that qualify for Medicaid reimbursement.

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Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.

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