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Pro-Life Activists Who Filmed Planned Parenthood Officials Now Face Felony Charges

David Robert Daleiden and Sandra Merritt​ were charged with 15 counts of violating privacy and recording people without their consent.

Lauren Messman

Lauren Messman

Photo by Eric Kayne/Getty Images

The two anti-abortion activists behind a doctored hidden-camera video that showed a Planned Parenthood official discussing the costs of sale of fetal tissue are now facing 15 felony charges for violating a health provider's privacy and recording people without their consent, the Washington Post reports.

Using fake names and forged IDs, David Robert Daleiden and Sandra Merritt made visits to the Planned Parenthood headquarters masquerading as reps from a research company and secretly recorded conversations. In addition to recording Dr. Deborah Nucatola talking casually about the sale of fetal parts back in 2015, the duo is charged with recording several people without their consent across three different counties in California between 2013 and 2016. 

Xavier Becerra, the California attorney general, announced the charges in a statement on Tuesday, saying, "The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California's Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society. We will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations."

Merritt and Daleiden (who's associated with the pro-life Center for Medical Progress) released a short, edited video of Nucatola discussing the costs associated with the sale of fetal tissue in July 2015. Although anti-abortion activists claimed it was evidence that Planned Parenthood was in the business of selling fetal tissue for profit, a longer three-hour video was unearthed showing Nucatola was talking more generally about the logistics of the legal practice.

"In health care, patients sometimes want to donate tissue to scientific research that can help lead to medical breakthroughs, such as treatments and cures for serious diseases," Planned Parenthood's VP of communications, Eric Ferrero, said in a statement. "At several of our health centers, we help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research, and we do this just like every other high-quality health care provider does—with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards."

Still, the video led to various investigations at Planned Parenthoods across the country and reignited the call from the right to take away federal funding from the women's health organization. To clear up any controversy, Planned Parenthood announced in October 2015 that it would stop taking reimbursements for the costs of donating fetal tissue for medical research, a practice that is legal.

Daleiden and Merritt are now facing 14 counts of filming people without their permission, as well as an additional count of committing conspiracy to invade someone's privacy. A warrant has been issued for their arrest.

"The bogus charges from Planned Parenthood's political cronies are fake news," Daleiden said in a statement on the Center for Medical Progress's website. "We look forward to showing the entire world what is on our yet-unreleased video tapes of Planned Parenthood's criminal baby body parts enterprise, in vindication of the First Amendment rights of all."