Planned Parenthood has faced many challenges in the past year, perhaps none more talked about than the publishing of videos that showed officials from Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast making arrangements to sell fetal tissue. But yesterday (January 25), a Houston grand jury cleared the health care provider of misconduct and instead issued charges against members of the organization that shot the video.
The Center for Medical Progress (CFMP) made secret recordings of meetings with Planned Parenthood employees, and the grand jury found that their methods were illegal. The New York Times reports that the organization’s leader, David Daleiden, and another employee, Sandra Merritt, were both indicted on one felony charge of tampering with a governmental record. Specifically, they are accused of creating and using fake driver’s licenses with the intent of lying about their identity. If convicted, they could get up to 20 years in jail. Daleiden was also charged with a misdemeanor for the purchase of human organs—the very charge that was considered and rejected for Planned Parenthood. It carries a sentence of up to one year of incarceration. Arrest warrants were issued yesterday.
Planned Parenthood VP of communications Eric Ferrero issued a statement about the indictment:
These anti-abortion extremists spent three years creating a fake company, creating fake identities, lying, and breaking the law. When they couldn’t find any improper or illegal activity, they made it up. These people broke the law to spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood in order to advance their extreme anti-abortion political agenda. As the dust settles and the truth comes out, it’s become totally clear that the only people who engaged in wrongdoing are the criminals behind this fraud, and we’re glad they’re being held accountable.
Planned Parenthood has a federal lawsuit pending against Daleiden and other anti-abortion workers, alleging an illegal conspiracy to block access to abortion. The organization has consistently said that the videos were heavily edited and that officials were not discussing payment for tissue, only for the costs of preserving the tissue, which is legal.
The CFMP released a statement after the charges were announced, saying that there were simply exercising their First Amendment rights:
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. We respect the processes of the Harris County District Attorney, and note that buying fetal tissue requires a seller as well. Planned Parenthood still cannot deny the admissions from their leadership about fetal organ sales captured on video for all the world to see.
Houston Chronicle reports that the Texas Senate’s investigation into Planned Parenthood will continue, despite this week’s indictments. The governor and attorney general will also continue their investigations.