November 13, 2015 — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control on Thursday told a state House Oversight Committee that three abortion clinics in the state could be fined for issues related to paperwork and the disposal of medical waste, the AP/Bluffton Island Packet reports (Adcox, AP/Bluffton Island Packet, 11/12).
Gov. Nikki Haley (R) asked DHEC to investigate abortion clinics in the state following a series of misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue donation program. Planned Parenthood has stated that the videos were heavily edited and that the filmed officials did not conduct any illegal activities. The organization said it does not profit from fetal tissue donations (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/29). Planned Parenthood announced last month that while it will maintain fetal tissue donation programs at some clinics, it no longer will accept reimbursements for the cost of the program (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/14).
Between Aug. 31 and Sept. 4, DHEC investigated the three clinics in South Carolina: a Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia, the Greenville Women's Clinic and the Charleston Women's Medical Center. The department found 21 administrative and operational violations at the Columbia clinic, six violations at the Greenville clinic and four minor errors in documentation at the Charleston facility.
DHEC suspended the licenses for the Columbia and Greenville clinics. Under the department's orders, the suspended clinics had to close unless they paid penalty fees and came into compliance by Sept. 28 (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/29). The closure orders were lifted after the clinics paid the fines and submitted correction plans.
DHEC Director Catherine Heigel on Thursday told the panel that the three clinics and two medical waste disposal companies possibly face additional fines ranging between $2,200 and $21,150, altogether totaling almost $51,000. Charleston Women's Medical Center currently faces the lowest penalty fees, while Planned Parenthood faces the largest. However, officials noted that the overall fines are still under discussion.
According to AP/Island Packet, the clinics also have 30 days to respond to the consent orders, which were issued on Friday.
Jenny Black, president of a regional Planned Parenthood, said she was "surprised and dismayed" to hear about the possible fees via the committee meeting. "No monetary amount related to a penalty was mentioned" in the consent orders, she said. She added, "We hold ourselves to high standards and take swift action to address any shortcomings."
Meanwhile, state Rep. James Smith (D) discussed DHEC's heightened investigation of abortion clinics in the state, noting, "They've raised their level of scrutiny," adding, "But the bottom line is, not one iota of what was alleged has been proven true" (AP/Bluffton Island Packet, 11/12).