A South Carolina House panel last week wrapped up its investigation into Planned Parenthood, finding no criminal wrongdoing by the nonprofit.
The House Oversight Committee last year created an ad hoc panel to review how state agencies interact with the organization. The move by House Republicans came after secretly-recorded “hidden camera” videos showed Planned Parenthood employees in other states discussing the hypothetical sale of fetal tissue, which would be illegal if done for a profit. The organization has repeatedly condemned the videos as misleading and say they do not show any evidence of wrongdoing.
The panel’s chairman State Rep. Gary Clary, R-Clemson, said an audit by the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) found no evidence that Planned Parenthood’s only state abortion clinic in Columbia had even donated fetal tissue, much less sold it.
“Previous inspections by the agency have not uncovered evidence of abortion clinics donating fetal tissue for medical research or any other purposes,” Clary said, reading a prepared statement.
Medical University of South Carolina officials previously told committee members that the school does not use fetal tissue in its medical research.
State Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, had voted against the investigation last August and said the final report vindicates Planned Parenthood. “I just want to make sure that everyone understands that… we thought it wasn’t happening to begin with, and we proved it’s not happening,” he said during the March 9 meeting.
Committee members did express support for new DHEC regulations proposed during their investigation. Included among them are new requirements to clarify that clinics must incinerate fetal waste, rather than sterilize it and deliver it to landfills. State regulators temporarily suspended the licenses of Planned Parenthood and the Greenville Women’s Clinic last September for violations in that section.
The House panel also examined to see how much direct state funding Planned Parenthood received and whether any of the money was used to pay for abortions. The state Department of Health and Human Services (SCDHHS) said South Carolina paid for 29 total abortions over the last five years, but none were performed at Planned Parenthood.
All but four of those state-funded abortions were done because the mother’s life was at risk, according to SCDHHS, with the remainder allowed because they involved pregnancies blamed on rape or incest.