UPDATE, December 15, 9:30 a.m.: A federal judge on Monday granted Planned Parenthood a 28-day temporary restraining order, blocking Attorney General Mike DeWine from taking any legal action over allegations that reproductive health-care clinics in the state were improperly disposing fetal remains. The next hearing on the matter will be January 5.
Attorneys for Planned Parenthood affiliates in Ohio filed suit in federal court this weekend to block what they describe as “arbitrary enforcement of fetal tissue disposal regulations.”
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) on Friday held a press conference in which he made what the attorneys describe as baseless allegations that Planned Parenthood affiliates in the state were improperly disposing of fetal tissue. DeWine also threatened to take legal action against Planned Parenthood.
Attorneys for Planned Parenthood claim they learned of DeWine’s allegations through the press conference rather than through any formal communication with the Ohio Department of Health (ODH).
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DeWine’s press conference was to announce the conclusion of the state’s investigation into the alleged sale of fetal tissue by Planned Parenthood affiliates. The investigation did not find any evidence that fetal tissue was sold by Planned Parenthood affiliates in Ohio.
Republican lawmakers launched the investigation after a series of heavily edited, discredited attack videos were released by an anti-choice front group called the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). The videos purport to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing involvement in profiting from the sale of fetal tissue. Investigations across the country have turned up no wrongdoing.
CMP has worked alongside GOP legislators on the state and federal levels this year to defund Planned Parenthood.
The standard process ODH uses to address alleged compliance deficiencies begins with a notice of the deficiency stating the rule that is in question, along with the facts—including witness names and documents reviewed—while providing a reasonable time for the facility to create plan of correction, as described in the complaint.
If the facility submits an acceptable plan of correction within the time provided, ODH sends written confirmation that the deficiency has been resolved. None of that has occurred in this case, according to the Planned Parenthood attorneys.
“Planned Parenthood handles medical tissue just like other health care providers do,” Jerry Lawson, CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio, said in a statement. “We work with licensed medical removal companies to handle fetal tissue respectfully and safely. It’s clear from the Attorney General’s press conference that we’ve acted properly and legally, and this is just part of his longstanding political agenda to ban abortion in all cases. We won’t let that happen.”
Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit asks the court for a temporary order to prevent state officials from taking further action, until the court considers arguments that officials are improperly targeting Planned Parenthood by arbitrarily enforcing how it decides facilities comply with fetal tissue disposal regulations.