South Carolina’s public health agency is warning the three abortion clinics in the state that all face additional fines for years of improperly disposing of aborted fetuses.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) sent consent orders to clinics in Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville last week for sterilizing the fetal matter and sending it to landfills, instead of incinerating it as state regulations require. Director Catherine Heigel told a House committee Thursday the waste disposal company Stericycle also face fines for its role.
These fines stem from violations found during inspections in September. Gov. Nikki Haley had requested the look-ins in September after undercover videos from an anti-abortion group into Planned Parenthood showed executives talking about the potential sale of fetal tissue from aborted fetuses that would be used for research purposes. The organization has repeatedly condemned the videos as misleading and say they do not show any evidence of wrongdoing.
The September inspections were DHEC’s first conducted into South Carolina abortion clinics since the agency made changes after a legislative audit found weaknesses in previous years’ reports. Heigel said the changes included better recordkeeping and having a registered nurse involved in the inspections.
Proposed fines range from $2,200 against the Charleston Women’s Medical Center to more than $21,000 for the Planned Parenthood South Atlantic facility in Columbia. Each has 30 days to respond, but Heigel told lawmakers she expects more discussion between the agency and clinics before the fines are finalized and/or paid.
Planned Parenthood and the Greenville Women’s Clinic were previously fined and threatened with possible suspension of their licenses in September after the inspections uncovered dozens of overall violations. Heigel said these new fines are due to the same violations as before, but are specifically related to infectious waste handling at the clinics.
Violations cited in the five consent orders dated Nov. 6 include paperwork issues and fetuses being sterilized with steam and taken to a landfill, rather than incinerated. Charleston Women’s Medical Center had been cited for not accurately reporting the amount of waste it generates during its registration renewal.