Ohio, Planned Parenthood settle lawsuit involving fetuses

Planned Parenthood sued the state of Ohio last December after Attorney General Mike DeWine accused the Cincinnati clinic and two others of violating state law by disposing of fetal tissue in landfills. DeWine had launched the probe to determine whether certain abortion clinics were selling fetal tissue, but found no evidence of that occurring.

Planned Parenthood responded by saying it handles medical tissue “just like other health care providers do” and accused DeWine of making “defamatory and false accusations.”

The settlement comes after bills were introduced in the Ohio legislature seeking to clarify the language in the law, which states simply that fetal tissue must be handled in a “humane manner.” The bills deal with disposing of fetal remains by either burial or cremation.

After the state vowed not to enforce the unconstitutionally vague statute, the case became moot, said Dan Tierney, the attorney general’s spokesman. None of the bills introduced so far have passed.

Attorney Jennifer Branch, who represented Planned Parenthood, said the case lasted almost six months because the organization couldn’t trust the state not to enforce the current statute.

“It’s always good to have cases disposed of because it’s such a distraction and it causes a concern for patients and the staff,” Branch said. “So it is good that this one has been put away.”

Chief Judge Edmund A. Sargus, Jr. will retain jurisdiction over the case through May 2018 “for the sole purpose of enforcing the settlement” court records indicate.

Two other lawsuits involving the state and Planned Parenthood are pending. In one, a federal judge on May 23 issued a temporary restraining order forbidding the state from yanking funding to Planned Parenthood, as a bill passed in the current legislative session and signed by Gov. John Kasich sought to do. That order expires on June 6.

A second lawsuit involves emergency medical transfer agreements. Surgical facilities such as abortion clinics are required to have agreements with nearby hospitals to take patients in an emergency, but the state blocks public hospitals from entering into those agreements and many private hospitals are Catholic, which do not condone abortions.

A lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and the Women’s Med Center in Kettering maintains the agreements are unconstitutional.

Last week Richard Hodges, the state’s health director, granted a variance to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Cincinnati, saying it satisfied the state’s emergency back-up requirement because the clinic has agreements with four physicians who can give patient care in an emergency.

The variance is good through May of next year.

However, the Women’s Med Center in Kettering is still waiting on an independent hearing officer’s recommendation over whether its three-physician back-up team is sufficient to get a variance.

Melanie Amato, Hodges’ spokeswoman, said it will likely be July before the office receives the hearing officer’s recommendation.

Hodges’ office has twice turned down the request.

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