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Anti-Abortion Extremist Behind Planned Parenthood Videos Turns Himself In

David Daleiden has turned himself in on two charges related to illegally infiltrating the reproductive health group amid calls from activist groups to stop spreading his anti-choice propaganda.
February 4, 2016, 3:55pm

The anti-abortion activist behind the elaborate smear campaign against Planned Parenthood, David Daleiden, turned himself in this morning at 9:45 AM (EST). A livestream on an anti-abortion site showed Daleiden posting bail this morning and appearing smug upon exiting the courthouse. Speaking to the press outside the court, Daleiden's delusional attorneys called him a "modern day hero" and said, despite "this miscarriage of justice," they are prepared for trial. This follows a Houston, Texas grand jury's decision to indict Daleiden for the alleged crimes he committed during his attempt to infiltrate the women's health organization and film a series of "sting videos."

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The leader of the radical group that calls itself the Center For Medical Progress faces one felony count of tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanor charge related to purchasing human organs. His co-conspirator, Sandra Merritt, 62, who was also indicted on the felony charge, reportedly turned herself in on Wednesday.

After the grand jury hearing in Texas in January, warrants were issued for the arrest of both Daleiden and Merritt. However, CBS News reports that attorneys for the two anti-abortion extremists worked out a deal which allowed them to turn themselves in. Daleiden and Merritt's court date is scheduled for March 28. Daleiden faces up to 20 years in prison for the tampering charge alone.

Read More: Desperate for Abortion Care, Women in Texas Are Pawning Their Wedding Rings

This hopefully marks the beginning of justice for Planned Parenthood and the women who have had their access to reproductive healthcare taken away from them. The healthcare provider has struggled to clear its name following a string of "undercover" videos, released by Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress, that purported to show representatives from the organization illegally negotiating 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 to avoid any further misconceptions.)

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Although the videos were debunked—and numerous state-launched investigations confirmed this, turning up no signs of wrongdoing on Planned Parenthood's part—there are still many people who believe that the women's health organization profits from the sale of fetal tissue or otherwise operates outside the law. Daleiden has been able to both perpetrate and take advantage of this confusion. In the media, he's upheld his distorted falsehoods as fact, and he's recently taken to positioning himself as an "investigative journalist." Anti-abortion organizers are planning to deliver a petition that calls on Harris Country to exonerate him as such.

"The Center for Medical Progress uses the same undercover techniques that investigative journalists have used for decades in exercising our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press, and follows all applicable laws," reads a statement released by the Center For Medical Progress. USA Today even published an op-ed by Daleiden on the day of his indictment, giving him space to further slander Planned Parenthood and bolster his position as a "whistleblower."

Read More: Looking Back on a Horrendous Year for Abortion Rights

Because of this, a coalition of pro-women organizations teamed up with Media Matters, a media watchdog group, to pen an open letter that urges publications to "stop enabling CMP in its baseless attacks on Planned Parenthood and legal access to abortion and reproductive healthcare." In a nutshell, the letter asks news organizations to stop pretending that publishing Daleiden's edited video footage without crucial context is part of what constitutes fair and objective reporting.

"Ignoring these details helps anti-choice extremists distort the reality of reproductive health care in America and dangerously perpetuates abortion stigma. Experts agree that continued attacks on Planned Parenthood could contribute to a public health crisis that would put millions of women, men, and children at risk of losing access to basic healthcare," the letter signed by the National Organization for Women, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Physicians for Reproductive Health reads, in part.

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"In an attempt to restrict access to safe and legal abortion, David Daleiden has spun a story about Planned Parenthood that simply is not true—and far too many in the media have helped him. Following his indictment, credible journalists should see him for what he truly is: lacking in credibility; extreme in his views; dishonest in his tactics; and dangerous in his intent. There's too much at stake—including the health and rights of millions of women—for irresponsible and incomplete reporting," Nita Chaudhary, a co-founder of the women's rights organization, Ultraviolet, told Broadly in an email.

In an attempt to restrict access to safe and legal abortion, David Daleiden has spun a story about Planned Parenthood that simply is not true—and far too many in the media have helped him.

Indeed, a new study published by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project demonstrates the consequences of a political landscape that's become increasingly hostile to Planned Parenthood, a vital player in women's reproductive health. The study found that when you marginalize and defund women's healthcare providers—like Texas decided to do when they passed a law in 2013 excluding Planned Parenthood affiliates from accessing public funds—less women have access to the contraceptive choices they need. Since Texas defunded Planned Parenthood, the state has seen a 35 percent decline in women using the most effective methods of birth control and an increase in births among low-income women.

Arkansas, Alabama, New Hampshire, Louisiana, North Carolina and Utah have also voted to stop public funds from going to Planned Parenthood clinics in similar attempts to restrict women's reproductive rights.

"Simply put, dedicated women's health providers matter. Providers who are mission-driven and have the requisite experience and knowledge appear to be critical for the delivery of the most effective methods of contraception—IUDs, implants, and injectables," Dr. Joseph Potter, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, who supervised the study, said in a statement.