Prosecutors Drop Charges Against Anti-Abortion Activists Who Lied Their Way Into a Texas Planned Parenthood Clinic

click to enlarge Authorities initially charged Sandra Merritt and David Daleiden for using these fake IDs to gain access to a Houston Planned Parenthood clinic
Authorities initially charged Sandra Merritt and David Daleiden for using these fake IDs to gain access to a Houston Planned Parenthood clinic
When the Center for Medical Progress, a group of activists tied to the radical fringe of the anti-abortion movement, dropped a series of heavily-edited YouTube videos last summer showing Planned Parenthood doctors speaking frankly about fetal tissue donation, they ignited a firestorm. There were widespread calls from conservative leaders to defund the organization, an uptick in violence and threats against abortion providers, and even a man who shot up a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic who reportedly told police upon arrest, "no more baby parts." 

The undercover videos also led to state and local investigations across the country into allegations that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue for profit, including one out of the Harris County District Attorney's Office. That investigation, to the shock of many, ultimately cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing and resulted in the criminal indictment of David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, activists who used fake IDs to lie their way into and film inside a Houston Planned Parenthood facility sometime last year.

On Tuesday, officials confirmed they'd dropped the remaining counts against Daleiden and Merritt, felony charges for tampering with a government record. Harris County DA Devon Anderson, herself an avowed pro-life Republican who had taken heat from conservative activists because of the charges, released a prepared statement Tuesday saying that "after careful research and review, this office dismissed the indictments."

Daleiden's attorneys had asked a judge on the case to toss the charges, claiming they were the result of grand jury proceedings that prosecutors mishandled. Prosecutors began looking into Planned Parenthood after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called on the DA's office to investigate the group after undercover video surfaced of Daleiden and Merritt talking with staff in a Houston Planned Parenthood facility. (Daleiden's attorneys insist the grand jury overstepped its bounds and should have only considered charges against Planned Parenthood staff.)

A lawsuit Planned Parenthood has filed in federal court says the activists surreptitiously gained access to clinics in Texas and elsewhere by forming a fake company, "“Biomax Procurement Services, LLC," which they incorporated under pseudonyms. According to the lawsuit, the activists then aggressively marketed “Biomax" as a legitimate company that transfers donated fetal tissue from abortion clinics to medical researchers (a legal process that has long been condemned by anti-abortion activists).

From there, according to the lawsuit, the Daleiden and Merritt gained access to and secretly recorded inside of private conferences for abortion providers held by Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation. They then set up meetings across the country to talk with doctors about fetal tissue donation. While Planned Parenthood's offices in Houston check visitors' names against a database of people tied to the radical anti-abortion movement, Daleiden and Merritt avoided being flagged because of their fake IDs, according to the lawsuit. 

State health officials have cited the videos as reason enough to kick Planned Parenthood out of the joint state-federal Medicaid program, something the feds  have insisted Texas cannot legally do.


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