Georgia abortion providers dispose of fetal remains properly, state finds

Planned Parenthood Southeast and four other abortion providers in Georgia are following state law on the proper disposal of fetal tissues after abortions, a review by the Department of Public Health has found.

In letter released Wednesday, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald told Gov. Nathan Deal, “I have concluded that each (clinic) has proper procedures in place for burial or interment of remains and that all such facilities are currently following that portion of the law.”

Deal, who had ordered the inquiry into the disposal of fetal remains, was responding to a videotape made covertly by anti-abortion activists posing as representatives of a “human biologics” firm. In that video, a national Planned Parenthood official described harvesting fetal body parts for donation.

Staci Fox, CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast, said she had no concern about the outcome of the state’s review.

“We knew the Georgia Department of Public Health would find no evidence of wrongdoing, and we are confident the Georgia Department of Community Health will find the same,” Fox said in a statement.”

The Department of Community Health, also directed by Deal to investigate Planned Parenthood, did not release a report Wednesday but said its inquiry continues.

Fitzgerald, an obstetrician/gynecologist, said in her report to Deal, “As you know, Georgia law requires that licensed abortion clinics (or a medical disposal service provider with whom they have contracted) to bury or cremate fetal remains following the termination of a pregnancy. DNA or genetic testing can and does take place in certain cases, such as if a rape has occurred or there was an abnormality in the pregnancy.”

‘Some officials continue to play politics’

The day after Deal called for the investigation, Planned Parenthood Southeast received a letter from the Department of Public Health saying the state was canceling a program that provided Planned Parenthood with free test kits for sexually transmitted diseases, Fox said on Monday.

On Wednesday, however, Fox said her and organization and the state had reached an agreement.

“We are also pleased to report that the state has assured us we will be able to continue to use the state lab for STD testing, which is a victory for thousands of women and men across Georgia who want nothing more than high quality care from Planned Parenthood Southeast,” she said in a later statement. “While we are deeply disappointed some officials continue to play politics, we are grateful to the public health leaders in our state who put the health and well-being of our communities first.”

According to a release from the state Department of Public Health, Planned Parenthood may indeed use state lab services, but the services will no longer be free.

“Recently, DPH experienced a 5 percent decrease in federal funding for our STD prevention program,” department spokeswoman Nancy Nydam wrote in an email to the AJC. “As a way to make up a portion of that lost funding, Planned Parenthood Southeast has offered to pay for laboratory services previously made available to them by DPH free of charge. The department has accepted that offer and will now be able to continue to provide testing kits.”

The Department of Public Health investigation looked into five abortion providers, including the Atlanta Women’s Medical Center, the Feminist’s Women’s Health Center, Summit Medical Associates, all in Atlanta, and Savannah Medical Clinic. It found that they, too, comply with state law.

Like Fox at Planned Parenthood, Kwajelyn Jackson, community education and advocacy manager for the Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta, said the state’s findings were no surprise.

“Feminist Women’s Health Center … (will) remain dedicated to providing quality, professional and compassionate abortion care to our patients,” Jackson said.

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