S.C. abortion clinics meet deadline, to remain open

The Planned Parenthood of Charleston is on Rutledge Avenue and does not have an abortion clinic. Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Environmental Control threatened to close two of the state’s three abortion clinics — the locations in Columbia and Greenville. They had until Monday to address the violations and a pay a fine.

COLUMBIA — Two abortion clinics threatened with closure by South Carolina’s health department for violating state laws will remain open after each submitted correction plans by Monday’s deadline and Planned Parenthood requested a re-evaluation of four of the violations.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Environmental Control said Monday afternoon that Planned Parenthood South Atlantic has asked the agency’s governing board to review the four citations for possible dismissal and to hold the Columbia clinic’s license suspension in abeyance while the review is underway.

If DHEC declines to dismiss the four citations, the cline will have to submit a correction plan for those as well, DHEC spokeswoman Jennifer Read. Planned Parenthood also paid a $7,500 fine by Monday’s deadline.

“We take our role as an essential community health care provider very seriously, and are committed to keeping our doors open to all South Carolinians that rely on us for access to critical health care,” said Jenny Black, president of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic. “Our dedication to providing high-quality, compassionate care ensures that we will do everything in our power today to verify our compliance with all state laws and regulations.”

Greenville Women’s Clinic in Greenville also submitted correction plans and paid its fine of $2,750 by the deadline, lifting the suspension order and preventing it from going into effect, said DHEC spokeswoman Cassandra Harris. Earlier this month, DHEC warned it would close the clinics if they did not come into compliance.

Violations cited at both clinics included incomplete records, performing an abortion sooner than 60 minutes after an ultrasound and not properly disposing of aborted fetuses. According to manifests, the fetuses were sterilized with steam and taken to a landfill, rather than incinerated or buried as required by law.

Planned Parenthood was cited for 21 violations and the Greenville Women’s Clinic for six. Planned Parenthood’s additional citations include having expired medicine and storing sterile and nonsterile gloves together.

Planned Parenthood of Charleston does not perform abortions, while the state’s third abortion provider, the Charleston Women’s Medical Clinic in West Ashley, did not have its license suspended for a handful of minor documentation errors that were found.

The health inspections were ordered by Gov. Nikki Haley, who instructed DHEC’s chief, Catherine Heigel, on Aug. 18 to review the state’s three abortion clinics’ policies and practices, and to make those affiliated with Planned Parenthood a priority.

Haley is among several Republican governors who demanded reviews of Planned Parenthood clinics after edited videos secretly recorded by anti-abortion activists became public that showed Planned Parenthood officials matter-of-factly describing how they sometimes provide fetal tissue to medical researchers.

Planned Parenthood and other medical facilities in South Carolina, including MUSC, have said fetal tissue is not used for research in South Carolina.

Planned Parenthood officials denounced the inspections as politically motivated, saying none of the violations cited warranted threatening to shut down the clinics.

Haley called the violations “completely unacceptable,” and said she supported referring the findings to SLED to determine if criminal charges are warranted. SLED has issued no updates on whether it is pursuing charges.

A legislative panel also voted to investigate state agencies that have dealings with Planned Parenthood after Rep. Donna Hicks, R-Boiling Springs, charged DHEC had not been regulating the state’s abortion clinics properly.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. Reach Cynthia Roldan at (843) 577-7111.