Dismantling bills while preserving morals with Phil Ford

Who is Phil Ford?

Phil Ford is an advocate, activist, relations professional, eternal optimist, the owner of the Ford and Ford group, a non-profit consulting firm that does a lot of advocacy work. Folks on the other side of issues that I care about may tell you I'm a loudmouth or troublemaker.

Can you tell us what ways you are involved in the community already?

I believe in making a change from a grassroots approach. I'm engaged in my hometown. Over the last seven years, I have been back in Orangeburg, SC, and before that, I was gone for about twelve years working on campaigns across the country. I said, finally, you're doing all this other stuff in other parts of the country, come back home. I did several years in D.C, Ohio, Hawaii, etc. I've also held leadership positions on U.S. Senate and Congressional campaigns. I said I need to put my money where my mouth is, and I can't complain about a problem if I'm not willing to sacrifice to fix it. I really embody community work.

I serve on different boards and non-profits. In my own community of Orangeburg, I volunteer on the TriCounty Health Network, where they work on policy and systems change to affect population health. Especially around healthy eating and living. I also serve on the free-medical clinic board in my hometown, and I engage with South Carolina United for Justice and Equality, who is also a client. I also volunteer in efforts to lift healthcare workers' spirits at my local hospital. If you go to my social media, you can probably see me dressed up as one of the Witches from Hocus Pocus around Halloween or passing out candy to the hospital staff wearing a flamingo costume. I have no shame in supporting my community. It's hard for me to say no if I know if it's a worthy project. I like to help people, which drives me to fight for a more equitable South Carolina, the United States, and the world. If we can lift one person, we can change their world, and that's how I look at community work.

What Is S.811

It is a poorly thought out bill that is a broad license to discriminate against anybody by any person in healthcare. From doctors, nurses, receptionists, environmental service staff, even valet at the hospital. They can discriminate. They can say it because your gay, it's because your black, it's because you're a woman. If a person had ovarian cancer and was 28 years old, within, as some would say, your "childbearing years," a doctor could refuse to perform a hysterectomy under the way this bill was written. It's a broad and sweeping attempt to codify discrimination in the state of South Carolina. It's not the name they named in the actual bill language.

From your perspective, does this problem with the bill resides in our community or within the leadership roles of those who can pass it?

Following the subcommittee hearing this week, regardless of a political party, it was clear that there were problems with the bill. That speaks of our communities that engaged; over 1,000 advocates took action. I also think just based on the merits of the bill; people weren't comfortable with it. This is more an attempt of a special interest group, also deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, trying to gain more control of every part of people's lives. After hearing from the bill sponsor this week, some co-sponsors removed their names from it. I don't think this is a problem in need of a fix because there are already medical ethics defined within law, within the practice of medicine, within the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm. This is a made-up problem within a special interest group trying to force it onto people.

How can we talk about this subject with those who may support this bill and believe it has merit?

As advocates, we created a document of how this would impact those making the decision. If there was a 78-year-old person, and a doctor says I have a choice of treating a person who is 35 versus 78, who am I going to choose to give life-saving treatment to first? That person felt like they had a moral to serve a person who would eventually live longer. An unvaccinated person could be denied care in a hospital under this bill. When we link it to real-life examples of how things can happen and link it to those making those decisions, we create change and slow down these bad bills. That's what happened this week, and that's what made a big difference.

What advice can you share with those who would like to take action but are unsure of the how?

Many groups are out there doing the work, such as The Women's Rights and Empowerment Network - SC WREN, SC United for Justice and Equality, SC United, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic. Follow all of them on social media and bookmark their websites at the top of your browser. Visit their websites because they make it easy. They create a web page for you to go to type in your information, and it'll auto-populate the committee members. You are able to personalize a message that is already written for you to send to folks. I'm grateful for those who have made it easier for individuals who may feel nervous about getting involved and engaged. You can come to the Statehouse to see what it looks like to do some good or stop some bad. If I have to offer a piece of advice to somebody, do not be discouraged or intimidated by the process you are unsure of. Ask questions, and just jump into the deep end and go for it. The time is now to make our voices heard, and if we don't, it'll be too late.

Keep in touch, and Stay in the know!

Twitter, The Ford & Ford Group, The Women's Rights and Empowerment Network - SC WREN, SC United for Justice and Equality, SC United, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.

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