By Tony Cook, IndyStar
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 16, 2016)– A medical waste company on the Westside of Indianapolis has been fined for accepting fetal tissue, amplifying calls from anti-abortion advocates to restrict how fetal remains are handled, our partners at the Indianapolis Star report.
An Indiana Department of Environmental Management investigation found that MedAssure, a waste disposal facility on Girls School Road, accepted three to six 31-gallon containers a week over the past four years from Pathology Services, a Missouri lab that services Planned Parenthood, a women’s health and abortion provider. Some of those containers contained fetal tissue, in violation of the company’s solid waste permit, according to a settlement the company signed with IDEM on Tuesday.
The company was fined $11,250, but will only have to pay $9,000 because it cooperated with the investigation, an IDEM spokeswoman Courtney Arango said.
MedAssure treats infectious waste with microwaves and steam before transporting it to a final disposal facility, according to the settlement. While it is not illegal to dispose of fetal tissue in Indiana, MedAssure’s solid waste permit specifically prohibited it from accepting such materials, Arango said.
Joe Delloiacovo, executive vice president regulatory affairs for MedAssure, said the company did not intend to receive the material, which he described as “small tissue samples about the size of a thumbnail that had to be sent out for diagnostic purposes” under Missouri law.
“This particular customer became a customer through an acquisition,” he said. “We tried to make sure we did not pick up any abortion clinics as a result of that acquisition. We were unaware that Pathology Services was actually servicing Planned Parenthood.”
He said the company itself called for the language in its IDEM permit that prohibited it from accepting fetal tissue.
“We did not want to get into any of the politics or debates on abortion,” he said.
But now the company’s actions are right in the middle of that debate.
Indiana Right to Life held a news conference at the Statehouse on Tuesday to condemn the company’s actions and call on lawmakers to pass House Bill 1337, which would make it a misdemeanor to knowingly transport an aborted fetus into or out of Indiana except for the purpose of burial or cremation.
The anti-abortion organization called IDEM’s findings “horrific.”
“We’re calling on the Senate to take quick action to pass HB 1337 to ensure humane disposal of aborted babies in IN,” the group tweeted.
A committee hearing on the measure is scheduled for Wednesday.
IDEM’s findings come after a Missouri Attorney General investigation of Planned Parenthood found that the organization sent fetal tissue to a lab called Pathology Services Inc., which in turn sent the tissue to MedAssure. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat, found no evidence that Planned Parenthood in Missouri had engaged in unlawful disposal of fetal organs or tissue.
The investigation was prompted by a series of undercover videos of Planned Parenthood employees discussing fetal organ donations.
In reaction to those videos, Republican Gov. Mike Pence ordered a similar investigation of Planned Parenthood in Indiana. The Indiana State Department of Health found that the organization was in compliance with state regulations.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment for this story.
Indiana lawmakers have offered a number of bills this session intended to further restrict abortions and limit the transfer of fetal organ tissues.