Ohio won’t enforce fetal-tissue-disposal rule, official says

Associated Press


Ohio’s health department will not enforce a state regulation requiring abortion providers to dispose of fetuses in a “humane manner,” the state’s attorney general said Friday.

The state rule, which does not further define “humane,” is at the center of a dispute over Planned Parenthood’s handling of fetal tissue.

Earlier this week, a federal judge temporarily blocked Ohio health officials from taking legal action against Planned Parenthood. The group is suing the state’s health director, accusing him of changing the interpretation of the disposal regulation and then unfairly targeting the organization.

Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a Friday statement the decision reflects the court’s temporary restraining order and the Legislature’s intention to clarify disposal procedures.

DeWine, a Republican, recently finished an investigation into three Planned Parenthood facilities that provide abortions in Ohio.

His review, released last week, criticized Planned Parenthood for disposing of fetal remains in landfills. He accused the organization of violating the state rule requiring that aborted fetuses be disposed of in a “humane manner.”

DeWine’s office found no evidence that Planned Parenthood made money from aborted fetuses, which was the impetus of the review.

Planned Parenthood calls the report’s allegations “inflammatory.” The group has said it follows Ohio law and uses the same practices as hospitals and other providers, which generally contract with companies to dispose of medical material.

Dr. Mary DiOrio, medical director of the state’s health department, said on the advice and urging of the attorney general, the agency would refrain from enforcing the rule and work with the General Assembly on the regulation. “It is clear that the law is vague and needs to be addressed,” she said in a written statement.

Several Republican state lawmakers have proposed legislation to require fetal remains from abortions be either cremated or buried.

Under one proposal, which had been in the works before DeWine’s report, women who get abortions would be asked to decide in writing whether the fetal remains should be buried or cremated. The decisions would be documented and the clinic would pay for disposal. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate.

The Legislature is on holiday break and not expected back until mid- to late January.

DeWine and officials in at least 10 other states announced investigations this summer into Planned Parenthood after anti-abortion activists released undercover videos they said showed the organization’s personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs.

Planned Parenthood was cleared in each investigation that’s been completed. The organization had a program in a few clinics where fetal tissue was donated for medical research, which is allowed under federal law.

Such donations are illegal in Ohio.