Planned Parenthood probe spurs Ohio measure on fetal remains


COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio hospitals, abortion clinics and other providers would have to dispose of fetal remains by burial or cremation under legislation that Republican state lawmakers plan to introduce.

The legislation announced by House Republicans on Monday comes after state Attorney General Mike DeWine’s investigation into Planned Parenthood facilities.

DeWine’s office found no evidence that Planned Parenthood made money from aborted fetuses, but his report instead criticized its facilities for disposing of fetal remains in landfills.

On Friday, DeWine accused the organization of violating a state rule requiring that fetal tissue be disposed of in a “humane manner.”

Planned Parenthood calls the report “inflammatory.” The group says its three facilities that provide abortions follow Ohio law and use the same practices as hospitals and other providers, which generally contract with companies to dispose of medical waste.

Stephanie Kight, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, said the disposal process is handled safely and respectfully. The tissue is processed and sent to a solid waste facility that’s specifically licensed for medical material — not a typical landfill, she said in a Sunday interview.

GOP state lawmakers said one bill is aimed at providing clarity as to the meaning of “humane” disposal of fetal tissue.

State Rep. Barbara Sears, a Republican from suburban Toledo, said the bill she’s co-sponsoring is not restricting a woman’s choice to get an abortion. “What we’re doing is saying there needs to be a respectful way once that’s occurred,” Sears told reporters at a Monday news conference.

A separate proposal, which had been in the works before the report, would allow women who get abortions to decide in writing whether their fetuses’ remains should be buried or cremated. The clinic must document the decision.

The head of the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio said the bills were intended to “shame women” who get abortions.

“It is just the latest in the constantly changing, medically unnecessary legal hoops that abortion providers and their patients must jump through,” said Kellie Copeland, the group’s executive director, in a written statement.

House Republicans said their proposals would be formally introduced in the coming weeks. The GOP-controlled state legislature is on break for the holidays and expected to return in January.

The meaning of the state’s fetal tissue disposal rule was being legally debated outside the Statehouse.

DeWine had said he planned to file an injunction in state court Monday to prevent Planned Parenthood from disposing of fetal remains as its affiliates have done.

A federal court lawsuit was complicating his plan.

Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit Sunday against the state’s health director, accusing him of changing the interpretation of the state fetal tissue disposal rule. The group asked the court to block Ohio officials from taking any action and allow the organization and health department to sort out any issues related to the regulations.

“The reality is that we handle medical tissue just like other health care providers do, and we always have,” Kight said in a statement. “We’re inspected regularly to ensure that we’re handling fetal tissue properly and legally.”

In its lawsuit, Planned Parenthood said it’s always abided by the directive that fetal tissue be disposed in a “humane” manner and has never been cited by the Ohio Department of Health, which licenses abortion facilities in Ohio, for violating those regulations.

A health department spokeswoman said the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

DeWine announced an investigation into Planned Parenthood in July after anti-abortion activists began releasing undercover videos they said showed the organization’s personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs.

Planned Parenthood said some fetal tissue is donated for medical research, but such donations are illegal in Ohio. A Planned Parenthood state leader has said no donation program exists here.

By Ann Sanner

Associated Press

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