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Planned Parenthood Strikes Back Against Ohio Attorney General’s Proposed Ban on Abortion Services

The health care provider stands firm amidst accusations of improper fetal tissue disposal.

Image via (cc) Flickr user Charlotte Cooper

Planned Parenthood on Sunday filed a lawsuit to prevent Ohio from moving ahead with efforts to block the health care provider’s abortion services, reports Reuters. The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Cincinnati, comes shortly after Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine indicated plans to use his state’s administrative rules regarding the disposal of fetal remains in order to prevent three of the organization’s Ohio facilities from offering abortions. DeWine is alleging that Planned Parenthood contracts with companies that send post-abortion fetal tissue to public landfills, which—while technically not illegal—would be in violation of state administrative code, which mandates only the vague requirement that “the fetus shall be disposed of in a humane manner.”

“I think it will come as a shock to Ohioans to find out that fetuses are being cooked and then they’re being put in a landfill and they’re going to be mixed in with yesterday’s garbage” DeWine said at a press conference last week, reports MSNBC.

It’s a charge the health care provider vociferously denies. In a statement from the organization responding to DeWine’s accusation, Greater Ohio Planned Parenthood President and CEO Stephanie Kight says:

“These new allegations by the Attorney General that we are improperly disposing of fetal tissue are flat-out false. Planned Parenthood handles medical tissue like any other quality health care provider. Our agreements with vendors all require them to follow state law, and dispose of tissue accordingly. If they are not, then I will take swift action.”

In a different statement announcing the group’s federal lawsuit, Kight explains that:

Planned Parenthood’s health centers comply with all laws and regulations that require safe fetal tissue disposal that is respectful. Fetal tissue is handled by a licensed removal company, just like other health care providers use for all types of medical material. Ohio’s requirements for how fetal tissue should be disposed of have been in place since 1974. The state is now claiming that Planned Parenthood is in violation of this regulation, despite the fact that for decades, Planned Parenthood has followed these regulations and has never been cited by the state for violation. In fact, the Ohio Department of Health has inspected Planned Parenthood’s health centers annually for the last decade, and at no time have they raised concerns about these practices.

The attorney general’s charges and Planned Parenthood’s subsequent lawsuit are the result of a five-month investigation by Ohio, after anti-abortion activists released video that they claimed proves the group engaged in price negotiations for the sale of fetal tissue. That investigation turned up no evidence to corroborate those allegations, although the video in question has gone on to be widely cited by a number of GOP presidential candidates—most notably Carly Fiorina—as reason to end federal funding for the group.

Ohio is seen by many as one of the new battleground states when it comes to the ongoing fight over abortion rights and family planning. Since coming into office in 2011, Governor (and contender for the Republican presidential nomination) John Kasich has enacted 16 measures that limit funding for and access to family planning and abortion services, some of which his office helped craft, reports FiveThirtyEight. “John Kasich deserves the credit for creating an environment and atmosphere here for the 65 [anti-abortion] members of the House and the 23 [anti-abortion] members of our Senate to pass a litany of pro-life bills,” Ohio Right to Life president Michael Gonidakis tells that site.

As evidenced by this week’s lawsuit, however, abortion rights advocates don’t plan to let this increasingly fraught political climate deter their work.

“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,” Jerry Lawson, CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio, said in a statement. “We won’t let that happen.”

[via reuters]

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