Health

Texas Grand Jury Investigating Planned Parenthood Decides To Indict Anti-Abortion Activists Instead

CREDIT: AP Photo/Eric Gay

Five-month old Ronan Amador rides in a carrier with his mother, Elizabeth Mahoney during a Planned Parenthood rally on the steps of the Texas Capitol

A Texas-based grand jury tasked with investigating allegations against Planned Parenthood — accusations stemming from a undercover video campaign seeking to discredit the group — has declined to indict the national women’s health organization for any wrongdoing. Instead, the jury is moving to indict the videographers who targeted Planned Parenthood in the first place.

Back in August, the Harris County District Attorney’s office announced it would conduct a criminal investigation into a Planned Parenthood clinic located in Houston. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) ordered the investigation after a series of undercover videos released by anti-abortion activists accused the organization of illegally profiting from aborted fetuses. At least one of those videos featured footage of employees at that Houston clinic discussing fetal tissue donation.

Harris County officials partnered with the Texas Rangers and the Houston Police Department to conduct the months-long investigation into the clinic. “I want to assure everyone in Houston that I will use every resource allocated to this office to conduct a thorough investigation and should we find that laws were broken, we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law,” Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said at the time.

The investigation did find that laws were broken — just not by the clinic itself.

Instead, the grand jury indicted two anti-abortion activists behind the videos, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, for tampering with government evidence, which is a felony offense. Daleiden was also indicted for the illegal purchase and sale of human organs, which is a misdemeanor.

“We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast,” Anderson said in a statement. “As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us. 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 activists behind the multi-part video series, who posed as employees at a fake fetal tissue procurement company and secretly filmed their conversations with Planned Parenthood staff, have been widely criticized for the deceptive tactics underpinning the smear campaign.

Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood sued Daleiden’s organization, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), for allegedly engaging in fraud and illegally filming staff who were unaware they were on camera. The National Abortion Federation has also filed a federal lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order to prohibit CMP from making further videos public.

Nonetheless, CMP’s allegations against Planned Parenthood spurred Republican lawmakers across the country to launch investigations into the national women’s health organization on both the state and federal level. Those investigations have so far turned up evidence only that Planned Parenthood’s activities are legal.