Gov. Nikki Haley asked South Carolina’s health regulatory agency Tuesday to investigate practices at the state’s three abortion clinics after recent controversies about Planned Parenthood.
In a letter to S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control director Catherine Heigel, Haley asks the agency to “engage in a prompt and comprehensive investigation of the policies and practices of abortion clinics in our state, prioritizing those affiliated with or owned by Planned Parenthood, its subsidiaries, and its affiliates.”
DHEC oversees the state’s abortion clinics, including one in Columbia run by Planned Parenthood. Other clinics are in Charleston and Greenville.
“Over the past weeks, I have been shocked by recent accounts of unethical practices at clinics affiliated with Planned Parenthood, particularly those regarding the sale of human fetal tissue,” Haley wrote.
These practices are not consistent with the laws or character of our state, and I believe this should make us pause and review Planned Parenthood's operations in South Carolina.
Gov. Nikki Haley
The governor also cited findings of a S.C. Legislative Audit Council report issued in May that found DHEC failed to inspect abortion clinics consistently each year as required by state law.
The report also raised questions about the small number of patient files DHEC reviewed during some inspections, the training of inspectors and whether inspectors followed up to see if clinics corrected violations.
Haley’s probe request follows criticism in Congress after videos, released by an anti-abortion group, showed Planned Parenthood officials talking about harvesting and selling fetal tissue for research.
Some on Capitol Hill want to end more than $500 million in annual federal funding to Planned Parenthood.
Efforts to reach Planned Parenthood were unsuccessful Tuesday.
The nonprofit’s leaders have said the videos are highly edited and fraudulent. Planned Parenthood has said it does not sell fetal tissue.
In South Carolina, Planned Parenthood has said does not offer fetal tissue donation.
Still, some members of the S.C. General Assembly also want to examine ties between state dollars and Planned Parenthood.
Led by a pair of Greenville Republicans, Rep. Garry Smith and Sen. Mike Fair, more then 35 state lawmakers have asked the S.C. Legislative Audit Council to review how much state money goes to Planned Parenthood.
They also asked if the Medical University of South Carolina, which receives state money, uses fetal organs. The school has said it does not.
Another legislative audit request asked to examine if Planned Parenthood is following state abortion laws.
Planned Parenthood’s two S.C. health clinics, including one that performs elective abortions, receive no state or federal budget appropriations, but do receive some Medicaid reimbursements. Those payments cannot be used for elective abortions, the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services said.
About 6,500 South Carolinians seek medical and educational services at Planned Parenthood each year. About 70 percent of them have no health insurance.
Pro-life groups plan to protest at Planned Parenthood’s Columbia clinic on Saturday.
“Concerned local citizens from Columbia and all over South Carolina will be sending the message that it’s well past time for Planned Parenthood to be run out of town!” local organizer Sharon Hale said in a news release.
Staff writer Jamie Self contributed