Columbia, SC (WLTX)- State lawmakers announced Tuesday that a probe has found no evidence of criminal activity at South Carolina Planned Parenthood clinics.
The House Legislative Oversight Committee set up to specifically study state agencies relationships and funding of Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics have held meetings on the matter since September. The probe began after a national controversy that was sparked by undercover videos recorded of Planned Parenthood employees and how they dealt with aborted fetuses.
"All of the fear mongering and hurling of rhetoric that was done to the beginning of this practice, and the pursuit of this, has shown to be absolutely devoid of any credit or value whatsoever," Rep. James Smith said.
The committee specifically was set up to study state agencies' relationships to Planned Parenthood and abortion service providers.Agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Social Services and Department of Health and Environmental Control have all presented in front of the ad hoc committee.
During the hearing, Rep. Walt McLeod questioned the process by which investigations can be opened in such situations.
"The entire committee is going to be eternally frustrated because of the remarkable loss of time that is consumed by meritless claims," McLeod said. "It seems to me that were going to have to curtail peoples ability to causally, very casually, make comments and letters and verbally before the committee."
Chairman of the committee, Rep. Gary Clary, said he doesn't disagree but, but stood by his vote to investigate Planned Parenthood.
"This is the first unscheduled study that we've had for this specific purpose that were all probably learning lessons from this," Clary said. "Part of this process has certainly improved the way that DHEC goes about there inspections."
Smith, and other Democratic lawmakers like Rep. Mia McLeod, said they are disappointed that lawmakers who initially pushed for this investigation were never present at the hearings.
"One in particular who was present in making the case, was Representative Donna Hicks, and I have a copy of her letter, making all manner of allegations of concern of illegal activity at Planned Parenthood," Smith said. He went on to say "I hope this will stand as a lesson and as it goes to the full committee that we don't undertake investigations when we don't have facts to support allegations."
Rep. Tommy Stringer defended his Republican colleague saying that the audit conducted by the Legislative Oversight Committee raised concerns.
"There was a 50 page audit showing problems with how DHEC was inspecting abortion clinics, and that audit required 5 house members signing on," Stringer said. "So it wasn't an arbitrary decision by one person to create an issue."
During the hearing, Rep. McLeod asked for a moment of silence for the victims of the Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado. McLeod has also asked the Governor for additional security at SC Clinics.
"There's evidence nationally that these centers aren't safe," McLeod said. "As lawmakers, as I had hoped the Governor would, I think we have a responsibility to the citizens of this state."
Although Gov. Nikki Haley signed an executive order to increase force protection at National Guard Recruitment centers following the shooting in Chattanooga, TN, she has not done the same for Planned Parenthoods in the state.
"Governor Haley has been assured by SLED and our homeland security partners that there are no known threats to Planned Parenthood in the Southeast," Haley's Press Secretary Chaney Adams said. "The governor will continue to communicate with law enforcement to make sure we do everything we can to keep all South Carolinians safe, as violence is never acceptable in our state."