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Published On: Thu, Nov 19th, 2015

South Carolina: Fines against Planned Parenthood for improper fetal tissue disposal already over $51K

South Carolina’s public health agency could fine three abortion clinics and two waste disposal companies nearly $51,000 for violations concerning the disposal of fetuses. The proposed fines range from $2,200 to $21,150 for violating state disposal regulations, Department of Health and Environmental Control Director Catherine Heigel told a House panel, detailed by a WISTV report.

They are the latest fines stemming from an investigation requested by Gov. Nikki Haley in August.

The request was in response to the release of secretly taped videos by the Center for Medical Progress showing Planned Parenthood officials in other states discussing the collection of fetal organs for research and unethical (and/or illegal) practices.

DHEC suspended the licenses of two of the state’s three abortion clinics just weeks later and fined them a combined $10,250.

Violations cited in the five consent orders include paperwork issues and fetuses being sterilized with steam and taken to a landfill, rather than incinerated as required by law – issues also cited in the clinics’ suspensions. The lowest proposed fine is against the Charleston Women’s Medical Center – not among the clinics suspended – for not accurately reporting the amount of waste it generates on its registration renewal.

GOP Rep. Gary Clary, chairman of the House Oversight panel, applauded Heigel for “tightening up” on inspections. His committee launched its own investigation into Planned Parenthood following the videos’ release. Republican legislators have criticized DHEC as being too lax with the abortion clinics.

Planned Parenthood supporters at protest 2011 photo/S. MiRK via wikimedia commons

Planned Parenthood supporters at protest 2011 photo/S. MiRK via wikimedia commons

A report released by the Legislative Audit Council in May found the agency hadn’t consistently inspected the clinics as required by law and had imposed no penalties for violations, with the exception of an expired license.

Heigel, who took the DHEC’s helm a month later, said Thursday the agency has better trained staff and changed how inspections are conducted, including joint inspections by the agency’s infectious waste and health divisions.

“We are substantially better positioned to effectively regulate these facilities,” she said. “At the end of the day, our role as regulator is to protect the health and safety of patients who use these facilities.”

Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, said the investigations have found nothing illegal or even close to the allegations that prompted the Oversight Committee to launch its own review.

“They’ve raised their level of scrutiny,” Smith said of DHEC after Heigel’s arrival. “But the bottom line is, not one iota of what was alleged has been proven true.”

Jenny Black, regional president of Planned Parenthood, said she’s “surprised and dismayed” to learn about the proposed amount through a legislative hearing.

“No monetary amount related to a penalty was mentioned” in the order, Black said, adding the organization will continue to cooperate fully with DHEC. “We hold ourselves to high standards and take swift action to address any shortcomings.”

 

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About the Author

- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at [email protected] ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco

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