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Planned Parenthood Cleared, Anti-Abortion Activists Indicted for Undercover Videos

David Daleiden (Fox News screen grab)

David Daleiden (Fox News screen grab)

In a surprise twist, a Texas grand jury has cleared Planned Parenthood of misconduct related to the alleged sale of fetal body parts and has instead indicted the activists who recorded the undercover videos that prompted the investigation.

The Houston Chronicle reports a Harris County grand jury convened to determine whether a Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in Houston sold organs from aborted fetuses cleared the clinic of any criminal wrongdoing.

However, the grand jury indicted David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, California-based activists from the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress, on multiple charges. Both Daleiden and Merritt were charged with tampering with a governmental record, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The pair allegedly used fake driver’s licenses “with the intent to defraud and harm another,” according to a court document.

In an ironic twist, Daleiden was also charged with the same misdemeanor he accused Planned Parenthood of committing, the purchase or sale of human organs. Daleiden offered to buy fetal body parts as part of his recorded undercover attempt to provoke Planned Parenthood employees to say they would sell them.

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said the investigation lasted more than two months.

“We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast,” Anderson, a Republican, 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.”

Daleiden and other activists had posed as employees of a company interested in purchasing fetal tissue, secretly recording their meetings with Planned Parenthood officials. Daleiden later admitted to deceptively editing the undercover footage to serve what Planned Parenthood vice president for communications Eric Ferrero called “a political agenda to ban abortion in this country.”

Planned Parenthood hailed the Houston grand jury for indicting “two individuals who were involved in the elaborate, illegal conspiracy to falsely accuse Planned Parenthood of improper activity.”

“As we have always said, Planned Parenthood provides high-quality, compassionate health care and has done nothing improper,” Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast president and CEO Melaney Linton said in a statement. “Planned Parenthood has never ‘sold’ fetal tissue or facilitated fetal tissue donation in order to profit. These claims are completely false and unfounded.”

“The people behind this fraud lied and broke the law in order to spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood to advance their extreme anti-abortion political agenda,” Linton added. “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 are being held accountable.”

A statement from the Center for Medical Progress insisted the indicted activists committed no crime.

“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,” the statement asserted. “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.”

Planned Parenthood insists it has never profited from the sale of fetal tissue. It has, however, been reimbursed for the costs associated with preserving such tissue for research, a legal practice.

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