After a series of now-debunked videos targeting Planned Parenthood were released earlier this summer, Republican lawmakers in a number of states used the manufactured controversy as an excuse to launch investigations of local affiliates. The results of these inquiries have been clear and consistent: Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, South Dakota, and Pennsylvania — the five states where investigations have been completed — officials have cleared the health care organization of any wrongdoing.
But in Florida, the situation is a little more complicated. Like many other GOP lawmakers, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) responded to the discredited videos by ordering a review of Planned Parenthood’s 16 clinics in the state. And like every other state where officials have investigated Planned Parenthood, Florida’s
witch hunt investigation also turned up no evidence of any wrongdoing. But here’s where the story takes a twist: Apparently unimpressed by the (lack of) findings, Gov. Scott’s office decided to “spice up” the truth a little bit, by which I mean he completely covered it up.
Gov. Rick Scott’s office scrubbed a press release written by his own regulators that found there was no “mishandling of fetal remains” at clinics run by Planned Parenthood and, at the same time, said it would refer doctors who worked at those clinics to the state Board of Medicine for possible disciplinary action.
Just to be clear, the entire point of the investigation, according to those who called for it, was to look into Planned Parenthood’s participation in fetal-tissue donation programs, and as the Politico report noted, Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration prepared a press statement declaring that the organization had been cleared of any wrongdoing on this front.
“There is no evidence of the mishandling of fetal remains at any of the 16 clinics we investigated across the state.”
“There is no evidence of the mishandling of fetal remains at any of the 16 clinics we investigated across the state,” AHCA wrote in the statement, which was emailed to Gov. Scott’s office on August 5. Politico obtained the email exchanges via a public records request.
Upon receiving the email from AHCA, Gov. Scott’s office proceeded to “delete information” that state regulators had included in the original press statement describing the findings, Politico reports:
Scott’s office revised the release to exclude that sentence [above], an email sent by Scott’s communications director, Jackie Schutz, shows. Additionally, the revised release noted the AHCA would refer physicians who worked at the clinics to the Board of Medicine for possible disciplinary action.
Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, told Politico that the emails didn’t surprise her, particularly given Gov. Scott’s record of using myths and misinformation to justify his support for harmful anti-choice laws.
“The fact is,” Goodhue said, “Governor Rick Scott is playing politics with women’s health by orchestrating this attack on a trusted health care provider.”
And according to Politico, at least two officials at the AHCA were also pretty unhappy about the manipulation of the press release:
When the revised release was sent back to the AHCA for review, Katherine Riviere, the communications director, sent an email to senior staff, including Secretary Liz Dudek, that said, “I would have thought a line on no evidence of mishandling of fetal remains would be included as that’s what questions will be on.”
Dudek, in response to Riviere’s email, said she “agreed with the comment.”
Apparently, though, the Scott administration doesn’t need any evidence to use its authority to attack Planned Parenthood or any other group or issue they are ideology opposed to – earlier this year, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection revealed that Gov. Scott had banned the agency from using the terms “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications.