South Carolina heath and environmental regulators have suspended the licenses for two of the state’s three abortion clinics.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) issued suspension orders Friday for Planned Parenthood of South Atlantic in Columbia and the Greenville Women’s Clinic, citing high-level violations found during inspections earlier this month. The agency said it would turn its findings over to the State Law Enforcement Division.
The only other clinic licensed to perform abortions in South Carolina, the Charleston Women’s Medical Center, was cited for four minor violations. It was not issued an Order of Suspension.
The clinics have until September 28 to submit a plan of corrections or risk being shut down, DHEC said.
“DHEC remains committed to ensuring that all clinics operating in South Carolina are safe and in compliance with state and federal laws,” Director Catherine Heigel said in a statement. “We take the findings of this investigation very seriously and will work together with each of these facilities to help get them into compliance as quickly as possible.” She added the clinic will take all necessary steps to resume normal operations.
Gov. Nikki Haley had ordered the inspections of all three clinics last month after a series of undercover videos released nationwide suggested Planned Parenthood clinics were illegally profiting off the sale of fetal tissue for research purposes. The women’s health group denies breaking any laws. There was nothing in the DHEC inspections made public on Friday that suggested the South Carolina clinics had been involved in such sales.
Planned Parenthood South Atlantic CEO Jenny Black said she was “shocked” by the order and questioned if the investigations were “politically motivated.”
“Our health center was inspected less than a year ago and was found to have 100% compliance with all state regulations,” Black said in an emailed release. “The reported administrative and operational issues do not rise to the level of shutting down health centers.”
DHEC inspectors said they found 21 violations at the Planned Parenthood clinic and 6 at the Greenville clinic. DHEC’s report said Planned Parenthood could not provide documentation on employee training, CPR certification, or fire preparedness. It also said the clinic was not following state regulations for proper disposal of infectious waste through incineration.
The Greenville clinic was also accused of improper disposal, steam sterilizing waste instead of incinerating it. Both clinics were also accused of not notifying the state of abortions within the required week and not recording the name of the parents of minors who underwent the procedure.
Gov. Haley called the violations “completely unacceptable” in a statement. “South Carolina is a compassionate state, and we are a state of laws. We will not tolerate law breaking of any kind, particularly as it relates to the callous treatment of human life,” she said.
State Attorney General Alan Wilson has confirmed his office is reviewing the DHEC findings with SLED to determine if any laws were broken.
A legislative audit released in May (before the Planned Parenthood videos were released) had accused DHEC regulators of being loose in their inspections of abortion clinics. The Legislative Audit Council (LAC) said DHEC was not able to provide substantive records of some annual visits, was likely underreporting the actual numbers of abortions being performed, and had no standards in place to train inspectors.
A committee of state legislators last month voted to launch their own review of how state money was being used to fund Planned Parenthood. The House Oversight Committee took the action partly in response to the LAC audit and lack of trust that DHEC regulators would follow through.