Meeting Minutes: Women’s Reproductive Rights – May 3, 2017

Attendees:  Roni Berttucci, Shirley Bissett, Rick Bullock, Mary Fleck, Phyllis Harper, Sally Kimball, Pam Madaio, Barbara Pollock, Shirley Hanson-Smith, Michael Vinson

Legislative monitoring:

SC legislation:  SC S 217 — Personhood Act

  • After an initial hearing on March 30, it was passed on to the full judiciary committee; there was another hearing and vote on Monday. It has been “carried over to a later time.” So we need to keep our eyes on this one. I expect it to be back in the fall.
    • Background Info: One of the most controversial bills at the South Carolina Statehouse. The Personhood Act says life begins at conception and would outlaw all abortions, with no exceptions for rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. It potentially would also ban in-vitro fertilization and some forms of birth control (such as IUDs). It is opposed by Infertility Advocacy groups among others.
    • Some comments AGAINST this act expressed at the hearing on March 30:
      • Michael Slowey, a reproductive endocrinologist and fertility specialist in Mt. Pleasant, told senators, “Stating that human life begins at fertilization is really not consistent with scientific fact. Both sperm and egg are alive prior to fertilization. Although there is DNA added, no real new life is created.”
      • Lynn Teague, with the League of Women Voters of South Carolina, argued that the bill is unconstitutional. “The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that public policy in a pluralistic society must affirm the constitutional right of privacy of the individual to make reproductive choices. This bill is an attack on that constitutional right. Very importantly, this bill is also inconsistent with our constitutional guarantee of religious freedom. The personhood concept as defined in this bill depends upon the idea that a fertilized egg, zygote, or embryo can be considered a person. This is inconsistent with normal usage of the English language and is not supported by a scientific understanding,” she said.
      • This letter to the editor in the Tuesday Post and Courier provides more insight into the extent to which this act could impact women’ s reproductive choices.
    • ACTION: Pam will monitor this bill and other state developments and send out alerts as needed.

Federal:  Legislation and appointments

  • ACTION: Sally Kimball volunteered to monitor federal legislation and keep us informed. She will draft alerts and send to Pam for distribution when appropriate.
  • We also discussed recent appointments of concern including:
    • Teresa Manning as deputy assistant secretary for population affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services. Manning has stated that “contraception doesn’t work” and “family planning is something that occurs between a husband and a wife and God, and it doesn’t really involve the federal government.” Her appointment would give her oversight of Title X, a quarter-of-a-billion-dollar federal program that provides contraceptive services to low-income and uninsured women and men, and a hand in guiding the federal government’s policy toward teen pregnancy, family planning, and pregnancy prevention.

Background Info: In 2014, Title X provided contraceptive drugs, devices, and counseling for nearly 4 million women who rely on the public safety net for their family planning needs. The same year, the program prevented nearly 1 million unintended pregnancies and more than 300,000 abortions. Earlier this year, in a move that could weaken the network of family planning clinics that use Title X funds, Trump signed legislation encouraging states to divert Title X funding away from Planned Parenthood.

  • Charmaine Yoest, the former president of Americans United for Life, was named assistant secretary of Health and Human Services in charge of public affairs late last week. (The post used to require Senate confirmation, but no longer does.) Yoest is a longtime foe of abortion rights who dismisses the notionthat contraception has a role to play in reducing abortions as a “red herring”.
  • Both Manning and Yoest oppose the use of IUDs, the form of birth control that is most effective at preventing pregnancy, according to the C.D.C. They think IUDs effectively cause abortions, even though that, too, runs contrary to the medical consensus.
  • You can read more about these frightening appointments here:
  • ACTION: we did not discuss, but I think we should be contacting our representatives about these appointments. While it may be too late to stop them, we need to let them know where we stand on this. Pam will prepare an Action Alert accordingly.

Coordinating attendance at events:

  • We specifically discussed attending hearings in Columbia in the future (like the two hearings in the last two weeks on S217 – the SC Personhood Bill).  There was unanimous interest.

Action Alerts and Event Notices:

  • SIAN has created templates for notifying committee members and the wider SIAN group of Actions and Events that are identified by the committees.
  • Any committee member can submit either actions or event notices through their committee chair (Pam), who will coordinate distribution through the SIAN website and email alerts.
  • Alerts should include talking points or background on the issues to assist SIAN members in contacting legislators.

Networking and generating more interest in our focus area:

  • We discussed reaching out to College of Charleston Women’s Studies program to network. Shirley agreed to take this on with the help of Mike, who has contacts at C of C. Mike has sent contact info to us.

Resources and Education:

  • ACTION: Everyone agreed to be on the lookout for additional resources and useful statistics to support our stand on issues. For the time being, please send to Pam. I will continue to update the resource list. Next meeting we can discuss how we compile and use statistics and other facts.

Next Meeting:  June 8 at 4 p.m.

SIAN Contact: Pam Madaio
SIAN email:

Posted in Women's Reproductive Rights