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Monday, January 25, 2016

Harris County Grand Jury Indicts Two Anti-Abortion Activists for Undercover Planned Parenthood Videos

Posted By on Mon, Jan 25, 2016 at 4:52 PM

  • YouTube screenshot
There's huge news out of Houston today. 

A grand jury indicted two anti-abortion activists — David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt — on charges of tampering with government records, and an additional charge against Daleiden for prohibition of the purchase and sale of human organs, the Houston Chronicle reported Monday afternoon

The videos purported to show Planned Parenthood officials discuss reimbursement fees for fetal tissue, which prompted lines about the reproductive health organization selling "baby parts" by Republican politicians and pundits. 

The case was in Harris County because some of the video was filmed at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston. A grand jury cleared the organization of any wrong doing, the Texas Tribune reports

When the videos were published, Texas' conservative leaders urged Harris County to conduct a criminal investigation, the Texas Tribune story notes. 

"We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast," Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said in a statement released to multiple media outlets. "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."

According to the Texas Tribune, Daleiden and Merritt used fake California drivers' licenses while posing as research executives to gain access to Planned Parenthood officials.

At the Evangelicals for Life conference in Washington D.C. last week, Daleiden defended his tactics, comparing his work to parables in the Gospels, the Baptist Press reports. 

Here's an excerpt:

"I think that undercover work is fundamentally different from lying," Daleiden said, "because the purpose of undercover work is to serve the truth and to bring the truth to greater clarity and to communicate the truth more strongly."

Daleiden noted, "Certainly in normal everyday life we don't always communicate the truth by a simple one-equals-one mathematical way of speaking. We often use poetry and metaphor and even pretext in order to communicate really important truth in a more clear way. Our Lord did that in the Gospels with the parables; it's often done throughout the Holy Scriptures; and so I see undercover work in that same sort of vein, as a creative way of communicating and speaking that is in service of the truth."

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said on Twitter that the state will continue investigating Planned Parenthood.

The release of videos also prompted the state to cut Medicaid funding to the organization. In November, Planned Parenthood sued over the cuts. And last week, it filed a racketeering lawsuit against Daleiden's organization, The Center for Medical Progress. There was even a Congressional hearing. 

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