Planned Parenthood’s attorneys spent a Sunday in court, taking preemptive action to block new anti-abortion laws they fear could be coming from the Ohio Legislature.
Alarm bells went off in their offices immediately after a surprise Dec. 11 press conference held by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) during which he accused Planned Parenthood of tossing fetal remains into landfills.
Two days later, Planned Parenthood attorneys showed up in federal court to try to stop whatever Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and DeWine might have planned.
DeWine said he wanted to do nothing more than “make the public aware” that Planned Parenthood was disposing of aborted fetuses in a “callous and completely inhumane” way.
However, Planned Parenthood leaders in Ohio accuse DeWine of making “inflammatory and false allegations” against their organization as part of his office’s real strategy, which they say is to block access to “safe, legal abortions for women in Ohio.”
DeWine’s investigation began as a probe into suspicions that Ohio Planned Parenthood offices were selling fetal remains. He admitted during his press conference Dec. 11 that he couldn’t find anything that came close to proving those allegations. However, DeWine said, his office discovered aborted fetuses from Planned Parenthood facilities were disposed of in landfill sites.
DeWine labeled the practice of tossing fetal remains into a landfill like so much garbage as “completely inhumane” because that phrase is much more than a political statement. It would also make what Planned Parenthood of Ohio is alleged to have done a violation of criminal law in the state.
Ohio Administrative Code 3701-47-05, adopted in 1975, requires that a “fetus shall be disposed of in a humane manner.”
DeWine said his investigation found all three Ohio Planned Parenthood offices had sent what was left of aborted fetuses to companies that make money from throwing away fetal remains in landfills.
DeWine also said while an official at one of the Ohio Planned Parenthood offices told investigators they used only one company for disposal, it turned out that company never accepts fetal remains for disposal.
Mike Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life, described his group’s membership as “disturbed and heartsick” over DeWine’s report.
”The visual of Planned Parenthood carting volumes of children’s remains to a landfill speaks to their callous disregard for human life,” said Gonidakis. “It is a grotesque portrait of their urgent need to dispose of their victims along with the truth.”
Gov. Kasich promised “appropriate legal action.”
“This investigation shows the need for further work with the Ohio General Assembly to rein in Planned Parenthood,” Kasich said, “while continuing to ensure access to vital health care services for women.”
Jerry Lawson, the CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio, denied his organization had disposed of fetal remains improperly. He maintained medical fetal tissue is handled by Planned Parenthood the same way as other healthcare providers.
“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,” Lawson added. “We won’t let that happen.”
Stephanie Kight, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, said it’s perfectly reasonable to be nervous about what Kasich and DeWine might be planning.
She accused Kasich and DeWine of “doing everything possible to eliminate access to safe, legal abortion — secretly writing abortion restrictions into law, working to close health centers, and even appointing the head of Ohio Right to Life to the state medical board.”
Before telling Kight she’s paranoid, it would be useful to look at an Associated Press report from November in which it was revealed that Kasich’s aides were secretly behind the drafting of abortion restrictions that were adopted in 2013.
Kasich spokesman Joe Andrews told the Akron Beacon Journal the governor’s office did not initiate the legislation but did contribute to the discussion in an advisory role.
“Providing feedback on proposed or contemplated legislation, and especially on issues that are complex, is very common for state agencies and the governor’s office,” he said.
Of course, that is what governor’s aides do — they help write legislation. But this time, it was different because Kasich said he would remain neutral and stay out of the discussions. He was so believable that abortion advocates thought they had a chance of convincing him to veto the legislation.
“Politicians in Ohio will stop at nothing to ban abortion in all cases in our state,” said Kight.