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Ohio finds new way to go to war against Planned Parenthood

The women's health provider has been cleared of selling fetal tissue, but Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine has found a new tack against the group.

No sooner had Ohio become the ninth state to clear Planned Parenthood of charges it trafficked in fetal tissue had the state's attorney general, Mike DeWine, found a new tack against the women's health provider. He now claims the group is violating a vague Ohio provision that says that fetal remains have to be disposed of "humanely."  

But Planned Parenthood points out that it simply contracts with medical waste disposal companies, which Stephanie Kight, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Greater Ohio wrote in a memo are "respectful disposal facilities used by other medical providers. The image that the state is trying to paint of something nefarious is unfortunately exactly what we’ve come to expect from them.”

Indeed, in a press conference Friday, which Planned Parenthood said in a federal court filing was how it learned of the charges against it, DeWine said, "I think it will come as a shock to Ohioans to find out that fetuses are being cooked and then they're being put in a landfill and they're going to be mixed in with yesterday's garbage." 

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On Sunday, Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit seeking to counter DeWine's claims, and preempt a state lawsuit that DeWine said he would file Monday. The court filing says that DeWine "has arbitrarily singled out Plaintiffs and claims that their actions in following infectious waste rules nonetheless violates the fetal tissue rule. This sudden and targeted treatment is no doubt motivated by his animus to a woman's right to safe and legal abortion and to Planned Parenthood in particular."

Planned Parenthood's two Ohio affiliates say the 1975 regulation, which says, “The fetus shall be disposed of in a humane manner," is vague and unenforceable, and that it has complied with standard health regulations. 

The move comes as Ohio lawmakers, including governor and presidential candidate John Kasich, are stepping up their opposition to the group, including its Medicaid reimbursements and the fact that it provides legal abortions. "In recent years, Ohio has shuttered more abortion providers than any other state but Texas," Kight wrote in a memo.  

In the press conference, DeWine declined to offer a specific alternative to how Planned Parenthood should dispose of fetal remains, though he mentioned burial or cremation.