The leader of the anti-abortion group behind those deceptive "sting videos" against Planned Parenthood and his co-conspirator have been criminally indicted by a grand jury in Texas after a two-month long investigation. Ironically, this happened while the court was investigating the women's health provider due to the accusations raised by the undercover footage, which purported to show that Planned Parenthood illegally profits from the sale of fetal tissue.
Planned Parenthood has denied that they have ever profited from fetal tissue harvested during abortion procedures and has also since announced that they will no longer accept reimbursement funds for the costs associated with donating the tissue for scientific research. Last year, a handful of states launched investigations into Planned Parenthood, turning up no signs of wrongdoing, and now a court in Harris County has confirmed this once again. Instead of finding evidence of illegal activity on Planned Parenthood's part, the grand jury indicted David Daleiden, the leader of a radical group that calls itself the Center for Medical Progress, and Sandra Merritt, one of his co-conspirators, on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanor charge related to purchasing human organs.
In another notable instance of irony, Daleiden had published an op-ed in the Washington Post on the same day, in which he accused Planned Parenthood's senior leadership of "partaking in a widespread and organized violation of state and federal laws forbidding partial-birth abortions and profiteering from the sale of fetal organs and tissues."
The New York Times reports that the felony charge stems from the fraudulent California IDs that Daleiden crafted in order to pose as a liaison from a fake medical company called Biomax Procurement Services, a fake tissue procurement service they had established for the purpose of infiltrating Planned Parenthood meetings. The misdemeanor charge, according to the lawyer representing Planned Parenthood, Josh Schaffer, is likely from the email Daleiden sent to the women's health provider, offering to purchase samples of fetal tissue for $1,600. Under Texas law, "a person commits the offense of [purchase or sale] of human organs if he knowingly or intentionally [offers to buy, or offers to sell, or acquires, or receives, or sells, or transfers] any human organ for valuable consideration." In other words, in Daleiden's attempts to malign Planned Parenthood and paint a picture of the vital health care provider as a deviant organization that operates outside the law, he may have broken the law himself.
As we've known all along, David Daleiden is the one who broke the law, not abortion providers.
"As we've known all along, David Daleiden is the one who broke the law, not abortion providers," said Vicki Saporta, National Abortion Federation (NAF) President and CEO, in a press release. "In order to launch his smear campaign, Daleiden engaged in a long-running illegal conspiracy and he should be held accountable for his actions, which have put abortion providers at risk."
In a press release, the Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said that, unlike Daleiden and Merritt, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast has been cleared of suspicion of wrongdoing: "All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case."
The state governor Greg Abbot, however, has a different opinion, despite the jury's findings. According to CNN, the state of Texas is continuing to dedicate resources and time to "investigating Planned Parenthood's actions." "Nothing about today's announcement in Harris County impacts the state's ongoing investigation," Gov. Abbot said in a statement. "The State of Texas will continue to protect life, and I will continue to support legislation prohibiting the sale or transfer of fetal tissue."
The Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also agreed that facts and evidence reviewed by the jury don't matter when there are other "facts" that come from heavily edited and biased videos: "The fact remains that the videos exposed the horrific nature of abortion and the shameful disregard for human life of the abortion industry," he said.
Nothing about today's announcement impacts the state's ongoing investigation.
The good news is that Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress are now facing increased scrutiny over their potentially fraudulent campaign against Planned Parenthood: Warrants were issued for both Daleiden and Merritt, and their bond was set at $10,000.
In addition to the indictment in Harris County, a watchdog group called the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) says that there's a good chance Daleiden will face repercussions at a federal level. According to CREW, the Center for Medical Progress misrepresented themselves to the IRS when applying for tex-exempt status.
"On its tax-exempt application, CMP indicated that its purpose was developing educational materials about 'medical advances, such as stem cell research, and other bioethical issues,' even though CMP founders have made clear in interviews that their core purpose from the organization's inception was to go after Planned Parenthood," CREW stated in a press release. "CMP also represented in its application that it would not attempt to influence legislation, which is a far cry for the group's true actions, which have included trying to get congress to pass legislation defunding Planned Parenthood." In addition to the CREW complaint, the Center for Medical Progress faces lawsuits from both NAF and Planned Parenthood, both of which accuse the group of being a criminal enterprise and of violating federal and state privacy.
Let's hope the government is as thorough in their investigation of the Center for Medical Progress as they have been with their attempts to dismantle women's reproductive care.