Allegations that four unlicensed Planned Parenthood facilities in San Antonio have been illegally performing abortions have prompted state legislators to reexamine funding for the organization and to call for legal and administrative penalties to be enforced against it.
On April 2 The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) issued cease and desist orders to the Planned Parenthood Northeast, Southeast, Marbach and Bandera Road Sexual Healthcare facilities. The orders notified the clinics to stop performing “abortion activities” that require licensure by the DSHS.
A letter from DSHS Commissioner Dr. David Lakey, M.D. told Rep. Phil King (R- Weathorford) and ten other legislators that preliminary information from the unlicensed facilities indicated that they were performing medically induced abortions.
Lakey said the DSHS is further investigating activities at the locations. The department is also investigating a licensed Planned Parenthood facility in San Antonio and that it may also become the object of enforcement action.
Additionally, he reported that five more licensed Planned Parenthood facilities have not posted their abortion facility license number in advertisements for their abortion services. Lakey said a Notice of Violation and “appropriate enforcement action” have been initiated against the facilities.
Planned Parenthood responded to the allegations by saying that a state licensing official told their San Antonio office in October 2004 that the clinics didn't need the license as long as they only offered the abortion pill.
According to the American Life League, the investigation resulted from the efforts of San Antonio Coalition for Life (SACL) and the Austin-based Texas Alliance for Life (TAL).
TAL executive director Joe Pojman reacted to the situation in a press release, saying, "We're shocked but not surprised to find that Planned Parenthood has violated the public trust in this manner and is endangering the lives and safety of women.” "We commend these legislators for their vigilance in ensuring that state funds are prevented from being misused and that women's health and safety are not violated."
CNA spoke with Pojman in a Wednesday phone interview.
He said that SACL had done some “great work” by discovering that Planned Parenthood was performing abortions in unlicensed facilities. Pojman explained that his group, Texas Alliance for Life, acquired a list of licensed abortion clinics and noted that the list didn’t include several known abortion facilities.
He said their example could be of help to pro-life advocates in other places. “It’s just a matter of local people really seeing if the rules are being complied with,” he explained.
After discovering the alleged violations, SACL alerted TAL. The statewide organization did its own investigation and brought the matter to the attention of several members of the Texas House of Representatives.
Pojman told CNA the legislators were “very alarmed” that illegal abortions were possibly being performed at unlicensed facilities.
“Once the legislators brought this to the attention of the state health services, the commissioner acted very quickly,” he said, adding that TAL is pleased with the official response “so far.”
Pojman reported that these legislators held a news conference yesterday where they said the alleged violations of law could include criminal penalties. The allegations involve “Class A” misdemeanors which could include jail time.
The legislators called on the district attorney or county prosecutor in Bexar County to pursue the allegations and also called on the DSHS commissioner to fully pursue all administrative penalties.
“Some of the fines include as much as $500 per day, per site,” Pojman told CNA, saying the alleged illegal activity may have been going on at least since September and “probably many months before that.”
He said the case shows that Planned Parenthood has “violated the public trust” and demonstrates that Planned Parenthood “should not be getting state funding in Texas.”
Pojman reported that a debate will soon take place about Texas state funding for Planned Parenthood for family planning and other programs. He conservatively estimated that the organization receives at least $10 million a year.
“They are not good stewards of those dollars,” he argued. Planned Parenthood’s operation of alleged unlicensed abortion facilities, he said, “really demonstrates they aren’t worthy of any further public trust.”
“It’s amazing how blatant Planned Parenthood is. They just thought they could get away with this indefinitely, apparently,” Pojman told CNA.