New Committee Acts With Authority – The Planned Parenthood Audit Vote

The House Legislative Oversight Committee was formed earlier this year to systematically audit state agencies to determine if each agency operates according to state law. Each agency has been assigned to a sub-committee where testimony is heard and reports evaluated. I serve on the education subcommittee.

The whole committee met this past Wednesday to consider requests to open an unscheduled audit of those agencies who deal with Planned Parenthood. The requests included auditing any tax dollars that may go to Planned Parenthood and the disposal of fetal tissue. These agencies include DHEC, DSS and HHS. State law expressly allows the committee to approve audits not on our regularly scheduled audit rotation.

After a two hour debate, the committee voted 9 to 7 to approve the audit. The vote tally included one Democrat (a medical doctor) who abstained and one Republican who voted no. The committee has 20 members of which 12 are Republican and 8 are Democrats.

This vote was the committee’s first real relevancy test. Would we exercise our authority to conduct a proactive unscheduled agency audit in response to an individual House member’s request if we considered the request valid? Would our committee show itself to have the necessary fortitude to hold agencies accountable in real-time?

The vote was a resounding yes.

To view the debate, click here.

 

 

 

Slovakia Wins Jaguar Land Rover Plant

Prior to the Volvo announcement a few weeks ago, rumors carried a possibility that South Carolina might be considered for a new Jaguar Land Rover manufacturing facility. Though British in origin, JLR operates as a subsidiary of Tata Motors headquartered in India. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Tata Motors chose Slovakia to build a plant with a capacity to produce 300,000 cars per year.

I was curious why Slovakia was chosen over South Carolina. Do they provide a better business climate? Would their culture mesh better with an Anglo-Indian company? Is their historical past less controversial than ours?

Let’s take a look.

Geography

Slovakia has about 5.4 million people; we have 4.8 million. Their country contains 19,000 square miles; our state has 32,000. They have no ports; we have a deep water port in Charleston.

Cultural

Like India, we were a British colony. Our laws, customs, language are all derived from the English. Slovakia derives theirs from Poland.

Automotive Business Climate

Slovakia manufactures 500,000 cars per year; we manufacture 240,000 – with Volvo expected to add another 100,000 per year. They have an extensive automotive supplier base; ours continues to grow substantially.

Modern Historical Past

Slovakia signed the Tripartite Act with Nazi Germany in 1940. They were the first Axis country to deport their Jewish citizens to the German death camps. Before deportation, they forced 57,000 of their Jewish citizens to work in Slovakian-based labor camps. Slovakia continues to legally discriminate against its Roma citizens according to the UN. In human trafficking, they are currently ranked 77th out of 167 on the Global Slavery Index.

South Carolina discriminated against its black citizens through state segregation laws until the Federal courts overturned them in the 1960’s. Our Legislature in cooperation with our Attorney General formed a human trafficking task force in 2012. They recently issued their plan to eliminate this form of modern slavery. We are ranked 145th on the Global Slavery Index.

For the record, India is ranked 5th on the Global Slavery Index. They have over 14 million of their citizens in some form of modern slavery.

During the Confederate flag debate, we heard how South Carolina has lost substantial business due to the flag flying on the Confederate soldiers monument. After researching the background on Slovakia, if South Carolina has indeed lost business because of the flag to countries like Slovakia, maybe we need to abolish our Commerce Department and hire a new Governor.

Or better yet, instead of taking issue with our ancestors, maybe we need the type of political leadership in the Statehouse who are not ashamed to say that in absolute terms of modern commitment to human rights, we are the good guys.

Marriage and the Modern General Assembly

An edited version of this article ran in The Greenville Journal.

Having survived a semiotic debate about the Confederate flag worthy of the ancient Greeks, I finally read through the Obergefell vs. Hodges Supreme Court decision recognizing same-sex marriage. Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, explained how the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution establishes the right of an individual to marry another person of the same sex.

He reasons that the Court has long held that the Constitution protects an individual’s freedom to marry. Since the 14th Amendment establishes that no State shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” then no State can deny an individual the liberty to marry another person of the same sex.

The majority based their ruling on the transitory nature of what an evolving society understands to be a “right.” They argued that the courts are responsible to reflect such evolutions in their rulings. As an elected lawmaker, I take exception to this practice of judicial activism. Such societal changes should be reflected in the legislative process as our state and federal constitutions intended, not through court rulings.

The simplicity of the ruling left several important questions unanswered. Should same-sex couples that live together now be considered legally married under our state’s common law marriage statute? Does the ruling create a constitutional requirement that South Carolina must issue marriage licenses? Will ministers be required to officiate at marriage ceremonies that violate their religious beliefs?

Government involvement in marriage has a surprising history in South Carolina. Before the 20th century, our state government had no authority to establish a marriage by granting a license or end a marriage by granting a divorce. South Carolina couples were married after having a church ceremony or by meeting certain circumstances that evolved in common law – circumstances such as the intent, declaration and actual practice of living as husband and wife. Once married, the contract was for life.

For a brief time during Reconstruction, we were forced to issue marriage licenses and grant divorces when the carpetbagger-controlled General Assembly adopted a state constitution modeled on Ohio’s. As Democrats regained control, these Northern marriage policies were reversed. After that, divorces were not granted in South Carolina until the law was changed in 1950.

Divorce was the center of debate when the General Assembly took up the marriage license act in 1911. Conservatives had not forgotten what happened during Reconstruction. They knew that allowing government to license marriage would eventually lead to the legalization of divorce. They argued that divorce would destabilize marriage and destroy the family. Their position may seem quaint now but we should consider our current divorce rates, the number of children living in poverty and the increase in unwed mothers to judge if their concerns were warranted.

The Supreme Court decision was about more than just giving same-sex couples equal access to a $35 marriage license down at County Square. The ruling added a powerful precedent that judicial perceptions of our society’s evolving rights – rights created and then ruled on by the same judges — have greater authority than traditional understandings of long-established rights or even of the Constitution itself.

In other words, the Court perceived that same-sex couples were now more acceptable to our society at large. The Court felt that they should not be banned from marriage. The Court ruled that same-sex marriage is now legal. By doing so, they knowingly usurped the rights of the individual States as defined by the Constitution and have threatened the free exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment.

The threat to religious practice exists contrary to the assurances issued from same-sex marriage supporters. Government initiated religious intolerance has already occurred in Houston where the mayor used the city attorney to subpoena the sermons of five Houston ministers who spoke out against same-sex marriage. The mayor wanted to determine if the sermons violated Houston’s Equal Rights ordinance. The subpoenas were withdrawn after a nationwide protest. Still, she showed no reluctance to use the public resources of Houston to harass ministers.

Her actions are only the beginning. The Supreme Court has set us on a course where the refusal of a minister to officiate at a same-sex marriage ceremony will deny him the free exercise of his religious beliefs. The restriction will not be a direct gag order issued by a federal court. That would be a First Amendment violation. The restriction will be a denial of tax-exempt status for their religious organization, the threat of concurrent investigations by other “concerned” government agencies, the bankruptcy that will come from the legal cost of defending themselves and the destruction of their reputation by a news media callously unconcerned about the First Amendment rights of whom they deem unworthy.

Though capitulation may seem the response du jour among our state Republican leadership on most issues these days, they have a responsibility to take proactive measures against any threat to our religious liberties. They could start with repealing the 1911 marriage license law that allowed the state to expropriate marriage from its religious foundation.

Under South Carolina’s current marriage license law, ministers are one of the few authorities who can validate a marriage license. They do so, not in a religious capacity, but as a government official. Their state-granted authority places ministers who refuse to perform a same-sex marriage because of religious belief into direct conflict with the Supreme Court ruling. Ministers cannot be given the authority to sign a marriage license then refuse to do so.

Repealing the law would remove our state government from the marriage creation process and eliminate the possibility of religious persecution against ministers who refuse to sign a marriage license for a same-sex couple. Marriages would still be recognized, as we would retain our old common law marriage statute where couples would become the sole authority to define their relationship as a marriage, not the state.

Some may consider repeal a radical strategy but it is logical. The Supreme Court just affirmed that the freedom to marry is a Constitutional right, so no license should be needed.

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Planned Parenthood – Abortion’s New Back Alley

Unless you have been on a summer vacation worthy of the French, you will have heard that executives from Planned Parenthood, an organization funded partially with your tax dollars, were secretly caught on camera since April negotiating the sale of specific fetal tissue parts and intact aborted babies to research labs. These videos have been gradually released over the past few days and show the brutishness of a truly macabre business.

With each new release, I think back to the little shop of horrors operated by Dr. Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia. Gosnell was tried and convicted in 2013 on murder charges for killing women and babies through botched abortions.

If you fail to remember Gosnell, you have good reason. His trial was given little notice by our national press. Their lack of attention was so pronounced that The Atlantic ran a story about the lack of news coverage of Gosnell’s trial.

At the time of his conviction, abortion advocates quickly declared that Gosnell was not representative of abortion providers and that he should be punished. He was pushed off of the abortion bus then thrown under it.

Abortion defenders had good reason to be nervous. A Pennsylvania grand jury indictment described in detail the awfulness of Gosnell’s clinic. When Pennsylvania state authorities raided his clinic in 2010, they expected to find him trafficking illegal prescription drugs. Instead, they found much worse.

The investigators walked into a clinic that smelled of cat urine. The clinic floor was slippery from blood and cat feces. Semi-conscious women waited for procedures in blood soaked recliners. Basic medical and life-saving equipment was outdated, rusty or missing. The staff was untrained and unlicensed. As horrible as this sounds, the worse was yet to come.

Gosnell had stored fetal tissue remains in milk jugs, orange juice cartons and cat food containers. For some still unexplained reason, he had 30 jars containing just the feet of aborted babies. Medical experts testified that Gosnell’s habit of removing the feet was “bizarre and off the wall.” Gosnell claimed that he was keeping them for future paternity questions. The report can be found online but be warned. The gruesome photos and descriptions contained therein make for hard reading.

The report then details the crimes that led to his murder conviction. They found “that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors.” He was sentenced to life in prison.

After his conviction, I drafted a letter to the Legislative Audit Council requesting them to determine if DHEC was regulating abortion clinics in South Carolina according to state law. Several House members from Greenville County added their names to the letter.

Before requesting the audit, I researched DHEC regulations to determine the exact inspections or reports that are required, then cited each regulation in the letter to make certain that the audit was thorough. The audit results were issued last May – almost two years after my request.

Thankfully, the auditors did not find the deplorable clinic conditions as revealed in the Gosnell case but there are problems. The audit summary lists missed inspections, lack of accurate reporting and failure to provide a way for patients to complain of bad treatment. The comment about our lack of utilizing ultrasounds to their full extent to prevent abortions is most disturbing. The auditors report can be found at www.lac.sc.gov.

The lack of DHEC oversight of South Carolina abortion clinics condemns the mother and unborn child to a shadowy world of potentially unsafe and painful procedures. You can be assured that those of us who requested this audit will take the steps necessary to correct DHEC’s failures in this matter.

Abortion advocates claimed that Gosnell’s practices were extreme and not representative of typical abortion clinics. I suspect that they are correct about one point.

Given the apparent profits available to Planned Parenthood from brokering baby parts, their suppliers would never keep such valuable merchandise in old milk jugs and cat food containers. Since one video captured a Planned Parenthood executive joking about buying a Lamborghini sports car, I suspect their specimens were kept in pristine condition.

Beyond protecting their wares, these abortionists are just buttoned-down versions of Gosnell. They harvest their product one illegal and murderous snip at a time while parsing out the remains to the highest bidder. Their corporate boardroom has replaced the back alley as the preferred place for abortionists to hide the true nature of their tax-subsidized crimes.

 

Tommy Stringer