- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Medicaid paid for 222 abortions in South Carolina over the past five fiscal years, but none of those were provided by Planned Parenthood, the agency’s director said Wednesday to legislators who are investigating state spending on abortions.

South Carolina’s Medicaid agency has spent $437,361 on 222 abortions performed between July 1, 2010, and July 30, 2015. Those numbers may adjust, as providers have a year to seek payment, and a review of 2014-15 payments is under way, Health and Human Services Director Christian Soura said.

The law allows Medicaid to pay for abortions in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger.

A five-year review did discover two questionable payments to Planned Parenthood that might be for abortion, but the amounts - one for $78 and the other between $200 and $300 - make that unlikely, Soura said.

“We’ll find out whether those two are tied to abortions or whether it’s a keying code error,” he told the House Oversight Committee.

The committee is investigating taxpayer funding to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. It’s among several state investigations launched by Republicans following the release of secretly taped videos that show Planned Parenthood officials in other states discussing the collection of fetal organs for research.

Soura was one of several state agency directors called before legislators, whose questions included whether any state or federal laws, policies or regulations require communication with Planned Parenthood, and whether Planned Parenthood receives money from the agency.

The investigations are part of the “political witch hunt going on across the nation,” Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Melissa Reed told reporters during a break in the meeting.

After the break, Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, said he resented her characterization. Lawmakers have a right and responsibility to ask how taxpayers’ money is spent, he said.

Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, chimed in that he hopes taxpayers scrutinize what the committee and presenting agencies are spending in time and money to “turn up not much.”

“We’ve found nothing suggesting anything illegal or criminal,” he said. “We’ve found a couple paperwork issues.”

As a result of an investigation requested by Gov. Nikki Haley, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control suspended the licenses of two of the state’s three abortion clinics earlier this month. Both turned in correction plans and paid their fines by Monday’s deadline. While the Greenville clinic has been cleared, Planned Parenthood’s suspension was put on hold after the organization disputed four of the cited violations and sought a review.

Of the three clinics in South Carolina that provide abortions, Planned Parenthood operates only the one in Columbia.

It’s also the only one enrolled as a Medicaid provider. Planned Parenthood, which also operates a health clinic in Charleston that doesn’t provide abortions, has received about $298,000 from Medicaid in the last five fiscal years. Most of that is for contraceptive-related services, such as office visits, pap smears and birth control, Soura said.

The committee asked him for more data to be discussed at its next meeting Nov. 12, including breakdowns on what the $298,000 paid for, reasons for the 222 abortions and Soura’s findings on the two questionable payments.

Reed said she’s unfamiliar with those payments, made between 2011 and 2013. Soura said they were discovered Tuesday.

“I’m sure once he provides us with the information, we’ll be able to provide the documentation,” she said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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