Much of the uproar over Gov. Nikki Haley’s budget vetoes centers around her elimination of the South Carolina Arts Commission. While the calls for lawmakers to override the arts veto are certainly justified, the governor also cut another program which deserves just as much outrage – nearly half a million dollars destined for rape crisis centers and sexual assault prevention programs.
According to the governor, state funding for rape victims “attempts to serve a portion of our population for which we extend our sympathy and encouragement, but nevertheless, it is only a small portion of South Carolina’s chronically ill or abused.” Haley said the $453,000 designated for the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault’s rape crisis centers “distracts from the [Department of Health and Environmental Control's] broader mission of protecting South Carolina’s public health.”
However, SCCADVASA Executive Director Pamela Jacobs said in a statement that sexual assault is “undoubtedly a public health issue. And with rates of sexual violence far surpassing national numbers, it is also one of the most serious health epidemics facing South Carolinians.”
In fact, the State Law Enforcement Division reports that South Carolina’s rape rate has exceeded the national rate every year since 1982. Jacobs said the coalition’s 15 sexual assault programs in South Carolina helped over 5,000 victims in 2011 — over half of which were children — and emergency hotline workers answered over 7,000 calls. SCCADVASA’s programs also provide prevention education to over 50,000 South Carolina students, which Jacobs said helps prevent sexual violence before it occurs.
“If this veto is not overridden, rape crisis centers will lose 37% of their current state funding, which will drastically reduce their ability to respond to victims and provide prevention education,” said Jacobs.
This isn’t the first time South Carolina’s first female governor has issued vetoes which undermine women’s interests. In June, Gov. Haley nixed a bill which would offer an optional cancer-preventing vaccine to young women, despite having co-sponsored a mandatory vaccine bill while she was a state representative. Lawmakers failed to overturn Haley’s veto of the HPV vaccine bill, even though the Palmetto State has one of the highest death rates in the country for the type of cancer HPV causes.
Many political observers expected Haley’s support of Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential primary would help improve the Romney campaign and GOP’s perceived “women problem.” However, that just hasn’t been the case.
In an April appearance on the View while discussing the Republican Party’s so-called “war on women,” Gov. Haley claimed that “women don’t care about contraception.” Pressed on the issue, she clarified that “all we’re saying is we don’t want government to mandate when we have to have it and when we don’t.” Of course, the governor failed to mention that no one was suggesting that the government mandate the use of contraception — only that health insurers should cover the cost of contraceptives for employees for whom it is prescribed.
Lawmakers will return to the State House in mid-July to consider overturning the governor’s vetoes of the rape crisis center funding and other programs. Look for updates on this story as they become available.