The tenor of the SC Committee is very different from its counterpart in DC. “Reluctant” is how we earlier described our state investigation.
Last Tuesday morning in Columbia, the Committee investigating the relationship between the State of South Carolina and Planned Parenthood meet for the fourth time.
Until that meeting, passion was, well, non-existent. All that went out the door on Tuesday. Democratic Representatives James Smith, Walton McLeod and Mia McLeod, utilizing the shooting at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs the week before, aggressively went after the very legitimacy of the panel.
Republican Rep. Tommy Stringer defended the establishment of the Committee, reminding those present of the lengthy Legislative Audit Committee (LAC) report criticizing DHEC’s oversight of abortion clinics in the state, a proper undertaking for an Oversight Committee.
As we have said, the tenor of the SC Committee is very different from its counterpart in DC. “Reluctant” is how we earlier described our state investigation. A local Columbia blogger was even more critical, calling the proceedings only “paying lip-service to the pro-life movement.”
So, what is the truth? How has the committee known as Other Study Committee #1 performed?
Here’s our take.
Other Study Committee #1 was charged with studying state agencies’ relationship with, funding of, and other activities relating to Planned Parenthood facilities and other abortion providers in South Carolina. Unfortunately, the Committee was not specifically charged with studying Planned Parenthood or other abortion providers.
Factual Questions Answered
On the positive side, the Committee has gotten answers to a number of questions those of us in the pro-life community have been asking for a decade:
- How many abortions are taxpayers footing the bill for each year?
- What did those abortions cost us?
- Where are the abortions being performed?
- Are the abortions compliant with the pro-life federal Hyde Amendment in regard to limiting them to cases of rape, incest and life of the mother?
- What exact medical condition in each terminated pregnancy at taxpayer expense threatened the mother’s life?
- What other services are being provided by Planned Parenthood and similar organizations beside abortions?
- How much did the state pay PP et al. for those other services?
- How many taxpayers paid abortions were performed on minors?
- How many minors are obtaining abortions due to the “judicial bypass” that allows court approval to substitute for parental permission?
- Is the Department of Corrections running a taxi service to PP and paying for inmate abortions?
- After the Legislative Audit Council (LAC) published its concerns about DHEC’s regulation of abortion clinics, what did DHEC do to improve their oversight in those areas?
- What did PP and other abortion clinics do to comply with the law and DHEC regulations in the wake of violations uncovered in fresh DHEC inspections ordered by Governor Nikki Haley?
- Did an abortion identified by DHHS that was performed due to the health of the unborn child violate the Hyde Amendment and therefore federal and state law?
- Are hospitals prepared to code abortion complications accurately when patients show up at Emergency Rooms after abortions performed in PP et al clinics? What reports have there been of postoperative abortion complications?
- What does an abortion clinic inspection cost, where do the funds go, is the inspection funding sufficient, and how is an abortion clinic classified for inspection purposes?
- What instructions are provided to a patient in regard to complications that might arise after a surgical abortion procedure? What instructions are provided after a chemical abortion procedure?
- What penalties were imposed by DHEC and paid by abortion clinics for violation of state laws or clinic regulations?
- What is the nature of the Communication, Funding and Activity of state agencies in regard to Planned Parenthood?
- Have any state dollars paid to Planned Parenthood been used for pregnancy prevention or comprehensive health education instruction?
- How can Planned Parenthood be legally defunded in South Carolina? (This question was partially answered by Director Soura of SC DHHS.
Inconvenient Legislative Questions Raised
Based on these facts, Other Study Committee #1 has somewhat inadvertently presented several questions to the legislature. These are the crucial but inconvenient questions for elected officials when they return to the Statehouse in January:
- Should an abortion be performed using taxpayer funds for any reason in South Carolina? The 2011-2015 taxpayer funded abortion figure uncovered by the Other Study Committee #1 could have been zero rather than 29.
- Should the state budget allow non-abortion funding for Planned Parenthood in South Carolina? That figure could also have been $0 rather than $297,904.
Essential Committee Questions Remaining
So what questions remain unanswered by Other Study Committee #1? While not a part of the official charge to the Committee, the need to find answers to these concerns was clear in the letters from legislators, which were based on documented cases of problems at Planned Parenthood clinics around the country:
- Have state agencies investigated whether Planned Parenthood and like organizations have conducted illegal or unethical activities of the kind shown in the video series by the Center for Medical Progress in South Carolina? What steps can be taken by the General Assembly or state agencies to insure this does not happen in South Carolina?
- Have state agencies investigated whether PP has failed to report sexual abuse of minors (as alleged/found in civil and criminal cases recently filed in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Minnesota and Ohio) in South Carolina? What steps can be taken by the General Assembly or state agencies to insure this does not happen in South Carolina?
- Have state agencies investigated whether PP has engaged in fraudulent Medicaid practices* in South Carolina as alleged/found in other states? What steps can be taken by the General Assembly, DHEC, DHHS or the Attorney General to insure that Medicaid or other financial fraud does not occur in South Carolina?
*Note: Documented fraudulent practices have included contraceptive over-prescription, contraceptive overpriced billing, dispensing contraceptives without medical authorization, miscoding claims to maximize revenues, and comingling funds from the reproductive health services or comprehensive health education side to the abortion side of the business.
- Are the regulatory and compliance procedure changes made at DHEC and at PP in the wake of the LAC report and the Governor Haley-ordered new inspections sufficient for state law and regulations to be followed consistently*?” If not, what steps can be taken by the General Assembly or state agencies to insure this does not happen again in South Carolina in the future? Could the necessary oversight and compliance be insured through legislation, revised clinic regulations, or some other method?”
*Note: The LAC audit of DHEC found a host of problems in the following areas: clinic inspections (in 6 categories), complaint process, standard operating procedures, staffing & training, website accessibility, Woman’s Right to Know Act, and use of ultrasounds. The Audit found no problems only in relation to inspection fees. The LAC audit itself made recommendations for legislation requiring that ultrasounds be performed on women seeking abortions and for new clinic regulations in several areas to make DHEC’s job easier.
Other Study Committee #1 has not been perfect, but its deliberations and investigations have been professional and essential for an understanding of the agency charged with inspecting Planned Parenthood (DHEC), Planned Parenthood itself, and agencies that fund or interact with PP in their normal course of the people’s business.
At least four investigative questions remain unanswered by the Committee. Two questions inadvertently raised by the Committee are so fundamental they can be answered only by the General Assembly and the Governor of the State.
Dr. Oran Smith
Former President & CEO
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