By Holly Gatling, Executive Director, South Carolina Citizens for Life
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Legislative Audit Council has issued a scathing report criticizing the state health department for numerous deficiencies in its inspection of the state’s three freestanding abortion facilities that could “result in serious problems for patients” if the problems are not addressed.
The three free-standing abortion facilities operating in South Carolina are: The Women’s Clinic of Greenville, Planned Parenthood of Columbia, and the Charleston Women’s Medical Center in Charleston.
Discrepancies were noted in the number of abortions performed at one facility and the number reported to the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Public Health Statistics and Information Services. Over a five year period between 2009 and 2013 the unnamed facility reported 471 fewer abortions than were performed, the report notes.
Among the 30 recommendations for improvement, the audit says the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) should “conduct annual inspections as required by state law” and post the inspection results on its website. The website should be more user friendly and accurate, the audit says, and provide a toll-free number for reporting complaints against abortion facilities.
The audit calls on the South Carolina General Assembly to amend the state law to require a “pre-abortion ultrasound to determine the gestational age of the fetus for all abortions.”
A nine-page rebuttal by DHEC concludes, “While much of the Report provides helpful input warranting consideration, it does not portray systematic failures by the Department reflecting imminent harm to patient health or safety.”
Representative Garry Smith, R, Greenville, called the Legislative Audit Council report “troubling.” The audit was requested by some members of the S.C. House of Representatives.
“I am very concerned about the under reporting of abortions,” Smith said, “and the failure and seeming lackadaisical attitude of DHEC for their responsibility to inspect these facilities. This report is very troubling.”
House Judiciary Chairman Greg Delleney, a strong pro-life proponent, said he has long suspected that DHEC wasn’t enforcing regulations strictly enough. Violators should be fined or prosecuted “to the fullest extent of the law,” Delleney said. “They need to be hammered.”
“I think it’s the culture at DHEC,” Delleney said of the report’s findings. “They don’t think enforcing abortion clinic violations is important. They’ve gotten away with this for way too long.”
In 1994 the SC Legislature passed the Abortion Clinic Regulation Act after employees of a local abortionist reported he was grinding up the bodies of aborted children in a common sink disposal. The regulations survived a federal court challenge and all but three abortion business closed. At one time there were 14 abortion facilities throughout the state.
The issue is not that clinics are not regulated. The issue is that the regulations are not being fully enforced as mandated by law.
South Carolina Citizens for Life worked for passage of the regulations and 13 other life-protecting laws. Abortions have declined by 58 percent since 1989.
View the report here.