NEWS | Tess Holgate
Wednesday 3 February 2016
In a surprise twist, a US grand jury in Texas tasked with investigating the claims that Planned Parenthood – a leading provider of reproductive healthcare in America – sold foetal body parts, has instead indicted two of the anti-abortion activists whose work prompted the investigation.
David Daleiden, 27, and Sandra Merritt, 62, were indicted on charges of tampering with a government record, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Daleiden and Merritt gained access to the Houston Planned Parenthood clinic in April 2015, by posing as executives from a biomedical company, and producing fake Californian driver’s licenses. Daleiden is the founder of the Centre for Medical Progress, the organisation behind the series of videos allegedly showing executives at Planned Parenthood discussing how much it would cost to buy foetal tissue harvested from aborted babies.
Following the decision of the grand jury, Daleiden released a statement, saying, “The Centre 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.”
Troy Newman, a founding member of the Centre for Medical Progress, and President of Operation Rescue, agrees that these tactics are used by reporters and undercover investigators “all the time”.
Speaking to Eternity, Newman said, “the indictment shows identification [cards] not issued by the state. But, countless underage kids create fake IDs to go buy beer, so this is not a felony worthy of 20 years in prison, and I expect them to be fully and one hundred per cent exonerated. This was not used to defraud the government, so they’ll be exonerated.”
But the fight is far from over. “Sometimes it’s three steps forward and one step backward,” says Newman. “This is something that’s going to progress over the next several years, and I believe that we will defund Planned Parenthood, and take away their federal grants, and I do believe that we will shut them down. I do believe that we will end abortion.
“These people kill babies for a living, and they get half a billion US dollars every year to do it. So they’re not going to go down without a fight,” says Newman.
Planned Parenthood’s vice president of communications thinks differently, saying in a statement, “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.”
From the very beginning Planned Parenthood denied accusations that it sold foetal tissue, saying that they supplied foetal tissue to medical research companies at cost. They maintained that the only money they received was reimbursement for storage and transportation costs, but have recently announced that they will provide the foetal tissue to researchers for free.
The videos’ allegation that Planned Parenthood made a profit from selling foetal tissue has been dismissed widely by US media, but the videos have exposed the treatment of foetuses in gathering the tissue sample – methods that many viewers have found distressing. The videos resulted in five separate congressional investigations of the organisation, as well as at least 10 state-based investigations, and an unsuccessful bid by Republicans in Congress to have the healthcare provider stripped of about half a billion dollars of federal funding. Defunding Planned Parenthood has been endorsed by all of the frontrunner candidates for president in the Republican primaries.