- Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The threatened closure of Planned Parenthood’s Columbia clinic has been put on hold pending a review, allowing its doors to open as usual Tuesday.

Planned Parenthood asked the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s governing board Monday afternoon to review the agency’s suspension order, said DHEC spokeswoman Jennifer Read. That stops the suspension from taking effect.

Earlier this month, DHEC suspended the licenses of two of the state’s three abortion clinics. The Sept. 11 orders gave the clinics until 5 p.m. Monday to address the violations and a pay a fine.

Planned Parenthood submitted correction plans and paid its $7,500 penalty by the deadline. Those plans are under review, Read said.

However, the organization asked DHEC to reconsider four of the 21 cited violations.

Those under review include incomplete staff records, abortions performed sooner than 60 minutes after an ultrasound and improper disposal of aborted fetuses. According to the order, manifests documented that fetuses were sterilized with steam and taken to a landfill, rather than incinerated or buried as required by law.

Violations not in dispute include having expired medicine and storing sterile and nonsterile gloves together.

DHEC lifted sanctions Friday against the separately owned Greenville Women’s Clinic after it addressed its six violations, paid a $2,750 fine and submitted proof of staff training.

The Charleston Women’s Medical Center, also separately owned, was cited, but not suspended, for what DHEC called four minor documentation errors. The orders against the Greenville and Columbia clinics marked the first time the agency had suspended an abortion clinic’s license.

On Monday morning, Planned Parenthood’s regional CEO Jenny Black said the organization would meet with DHEC staff and turn in correction plans in hopes of coming into compliance.

“We take our role as an essential community health care provider very seriously, and are committed to keeping our doors open to all South Carolinians that rely on us for access to critical health care,” Black said in a written statement. “We will do everything in our power today to verify our compliance with all state laws and regulations.”

A Planned Parenthood spokeswoman gave no further details.

The orders came less than a month after Gov. Nikki Haley, who appoints all of DHEC’s board members, asked the agency to investigate the three clinics’ policies and practices. The request came amid public outcry following the release of secretly taped videos that show Planned Parenthood officials elsewhere discussing the collection of fetal organs for research. Republicans across the country called for investigations.

Of the three abortion clinics in South Carolina, Planned Parenthood operates only the one in Columbia.

Republican legislators in South Carolina have asked the Legislative Audit Council to conduct its own review of Planned Parenthood. The agency’s governing board will consider the requests Thursday.

Planned Parenthood officials have repeatedly said none of the organization’s clinics in the South Atlantic region - which includes the Carolinas, West Virginia and much of Virginia - participates in fetal tissue collection.

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