December 14, 2015 — Planned Parenthood on Sunday filed a federal lawsuit against Ohio, claiming the state's findings in an investigation into the organization violated Planned Parenthood's due process and equal protection rights, AP/Modern Healthcare reports (AP/Modern Healthcare, 12/13).
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) earlier this year announced he would investigate Planned Parenthood facilities in the state after an antiabortion-rights group released a series of misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue donation program. According to officials with Planned Parenthood in Ohio, the state affiliate does not donate fetal tissue.
The investigation did not find evidence that Planned Parenthood in Ohio had profited from the sale of fetal tissue, according to DeWine's office (Sanner, AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/13).
However, DeWine said the investigation found that the organization improperly disposed of fetal tissue. According to Cincinnati Enquirer/USA Today, it is unclear whether the organization, which contracts with a third party to dispose of fetal tissue, violated state law. The Ohio Administrative Code holds that "a fetus shall be disposed of in a humane manner," but it does not specify what is considered "humane," nor does it outline penalties for violating the code (Butts, Cincinnati Enquirer/USA Today, 12/13).
DeWine said he plans on Monday to seek an injunction to block Planned Parenthood from disposing of fetal tissue in the manner identified in the investigation (AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/13).
On Sunday, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against the state over the allegations.
In the lawsuit, Planned Parenthood contends that the state violated the organization's due process and equal protection rights by modifying the interpretation of the state's rules on disposing of fetal tissue without notice and then targeting Planned Parenthood unfairly (AP/Modern Healthcare, 12/13). Lawyers for the organization said Richard Hodges, the state's director of health, did not act according to standard procedure, which usually entails providing notice of any alleged violations and allotting time to make corrections. According to the lawsuit, Planned Parenthood did not learn of the alleged violations until after it contacted state officials on Friday (AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/13).
Planned Parenthood said the allegations are "inflammatory," politically motivated and aim to ban abortion in Ohio (Cincinnati Enquirer/USA Today, 12/13). The organization noted that it follows the same protocols as ambulatory surgical facilities and hospitals, which typically make arrangements with third parties for medical waste disposal. Planned Parenthood also noted that it had never received citations from the Ohio Department of Health for violating the state's regulations on fetal tissue disposal.
The organization is asking the court to bar the state from taking action against Planned Parenthood and to permit the organization to work with state officials to resolve the issue (AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/13).
Jerry Lawson, CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio, said, "Planned Parenthood handles medical tissue just like other health care providers do." He added, "We work with licensed medical removal companies to handle fetal tissue respectfully and safely. It's clear from the Attorney General's press conference that we've acted properly and legally, and this is just part of his longstanding political agenda to ban abortion in all cases. We won't let that happen."
Similarly, Stephanie Knight, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, noted that after fetal tissue is processed, it goes to a solid waste facility that is licensed to handle medical waste (AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/13). "The reality is that we handle medical tissue just like other health care providers do, and we always have," Knight said, adding, "We're inspected regularly to ensure that we're handling fetal tissue properly and legally." Knight continued, "Politicians in Ohio will stop at nothing to ban abortion in all cases in our state," adding, "[W]e're are asking a federal court to prevent the state from this plainly political attempt to restrict women's access to safe and legal abortion" (Cincinnati Enquirer/USA Today, 12/13).
Mo. Planned Parenthood Affiliate Declines Conservatives' Request for Documents
In related news, Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri will not hand over abortion-related documents subpoenaed by state lawmakers, citing patient privacy as well as other concerns, AP/Modern Healthcare reports.
Conservative lawmakers in Missouri established a Senate committee to investigate abortion practices in the state after the videos targeting Planned Parenthood were released. The committee subpoenaed abortion-related records from Planned Parenthood.
In response, Planned Parenthood in a letter to state Senate president pro tem Ron Richard (R) said providing documentation for any incidents in which an ambulance was called would violate federal law on patient privacy. Planned Parenthood also questioned the state Senate's authority to issue subpoenas on private organizations. In addition, the organization noted there is an "increased concern over the sensitivity of abortion-related records," especially after a recent fatal shooting incident at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado.
Meanwhile, Mary Kogut, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, stated that Planned Parenthood's clinic in St. Louis, the only Planned Parenthood facility in the state that provides abortion care, does not donate fetal tissue. She also cited a review by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster (D) that found the organization did not commit any wrongdoing, noting that Planned Parenthood "believe[s] the issue has been resolved."
State Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R), who chairs the committee investigating abortion practices, said the full state Senate would determine how to proceed (AP/Modern Healthcare, 12/13).