The House committee formed to determine if there was any illegal activity in the operation of Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics operating in South Carolina has finished taking testimony and will be presenting a final report to the House Legislative Oversight Committee during the coming January.
The committee heard sworn testimony from the directors and staff from several state agencies including Department of Health and Environmental Control, Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Corrections.
The conclusion? The committee found no evidence of criminal wrong doing – a fact that I am grateful for.
However, we also heard from the lead auditor from the Legislative Audit Council concerning their audit of abortion clinics. They were asked by myself and several House members in 2013 to determine if all of the reporting and inspection regulations covering abortion clinics were being followed.
The LAC audit was released in May 2015 and contained almost 50 pages of problems including significant under reporting of the number of abortions performed annually, inadequate inspections and inexperienced auditors. We also learned that no fines or penalties had been assessed for failing to follow regulatory requirements until Gov. Haley ordered DHEC to go back and inspect the clinics during the last six months of 2015. These inspections triggered over $10,000 in penalties to be levied against the clinics.
Abortion-rights supporters on the committee had claimed that the lack of penalties in prior years proved that there were no problems. I argue the opposite. The penalties levied in the last 6 months prove that DHEC has not been adequately inspecting these clinics for years and has not collected fees that could have reduced DHEC’s reliance upon tax revenue.
During the committee process, we were able to impress upon the DHEC director the need to tighten regulations and increase the annual fees that abortion clinics pay so that the fees at least cover the cost of the state inspections.
Some of my Republican colleagues, as seen in this news report, seem almost apologetic about the very existence of the ad hoc committee. I am not apologetic. The committee did good work and we have cast a little sunshine on a regulatory process that should have been working long ago.