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  1. Florida Politics

Planned Parenthood investigation ordered by Gov. Rick Scott finds violations at four clinics

TALLAHASSEE — An inspection ordered by Gov. Rick Scott into Planned Parenthood clinics didn't find fetal organs being sold, but state officials Wednesday said they are citing four locations for other violations.

After inspecting 16 Planned Parenthood locations in the state last week, the Agency for Health Care Administration found that clinics in St. Petersburg, Fort Myers and Naples have been performing abortions in the second trimester of pregnancies without a license to do so.

"These facilities have been notified to immediately cease performing second-trimester abortions," AHCA spokesperson Shelisha Coleman said Wednesday in a written statement. "The agency may take additional actions against these facilities, including administrative sanctions."

The AHCA could fine Planned Parenthood up to $500 per violation.

A Pembroke Pines clinic was also cited for keeping improper records of its disposal of fetal remains. It has until Aug. 15 to submit plans to fix the violation.

The state inspections stem from a national backlash against Planned Parenthood by conservatives after videos surfaced online showing employees discussing the sale of fetal organs.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush condemned the group on the presidential campaign trail Tuesday, and U.S. Rep. David Jolly filed a bill to stop federal funding for the organization. Republican governors in Texas, Kansas and Louisiana have started state investigations, as well.

Planned Parenthood asserts that it doesn't have a tissue donation program in Florida, where it would be illegal. Nevertheless, Scott ordered that the AHCA start an investigation July 29. The Republican chairman of the Florida House Judiciary Committee has called for a criminal investigation, as well.

"The videos are disturbing," Scott said Wednesday. "It's against the law to sell body parts, so we did the right thing in our state to just make sure they're complying with the law."

But investigations into Planned Parenthood in Florida have a distinctly political whiff. In publicly declaring his investigation, Scott broke with established AHCA procedures by announcing the inspections before they happened.

"The preference is for us to just show up there unannounced," Coleman said.

The AHCA inspects the health care facilities it licenses on an annual or biannual basis, and after a complaint is filed.

Most information about inspections is kept under wraps until after they've been completed. Before Wednesday's announcement, Coleman could not confirm when they would take place or even if they'd been completed yet.

But in telegraphing the inspections last week, Scott said his priority was letting the public in on the process.

"The right thing to do is to let the public know that we're responding by doing an investigation to make sure they're compliant with the law," he said.

In a statement Wednesday night, Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates executive director Laura Goodhue said that the inspections hold clinics to a different standard from what AHCA has previously used to distinguish first trimester and second trimester abortions.

"I can state unequivocally that all of our health centers are operating in full compliance with Florida law as well as best practices in reproductive health care," Goodhue said. "The claim that any of our health centers are performing procedures we are not licensed to perform is false and seemingly stems from AHCA flip-flopping on their own rules and definitions of gestational periods."

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is still reviewing a request by state Rep. Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville, that they open a criminal investigation into any wrongdoing by the organization in Florida.

"The videotapes, I believe, give the reasonable suspicion that warrants an investigation," McBurney said.

State lawmakers, unlike Congress, don't have any control over funding for Planned Parenthood. Florida's budget doesn't include any money for the organization.

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