A grand jury in Houston has indicted two employees from the Center for Medical Progress, the anti-abortion group behind the secretly recorded videos supposedly showing Planned Parenthood officials talking about selling aborted fetal tissue for research. Planned Parenthood — which not only provides abortions but also a host of other health services for both men and women — was not found to have broken any laws by the Texas grand jury.
The director of the center, David Daleiden (pictured above), as well as another employee, Sandra Merritt, were both indicted January 25. Daleiden was charged with felony tampering with a government record and a misdemeanor charge related to purchasing human organs. Merritt was indicted on a tampering with government records charge as well.
Daleiden, 26, had fraudulently met with Planned Parenthood officials in 2015 under the guise that he was a biotechnology representative who wanted to purchase aborted fetal tissue for research purposes. During the meeting, he covertly shot footage which was heavily edited and released online as a "sting operation" video. Republicans in Congress unsuccessfully used these videos to try to spur a call to cut federal funding to the organization in July.
Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards testified before a congressional committee in September to answer to the video accusations. In her prepared remarks, Richards told the panel that just 1 percent of Planned Parenthood's nearly 700 clinics obtain fetal tissue for researchers seeking disease cures and that it was just a "minuscule" part of her organization's services, which include sexually transmitted disease testing and the provision of contraception and abortions.
Planned Parenthood is frequently targeted by conservative lawmakers, including Republican presidential candidate hopeful Carly Fiorina, who inaccurately referenced the fraudulently made videos during a Republican debate in September — and was called out by multiple news organizations such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and others for doing so, and for propagating false information.
However, the faked videos still caused outrage from pro-life advocates, including 57-year-old Robert Dear, the man arrested for the Nov. 27 shooting and five-hour standoff at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Dear called himself a "warrior for the babies" during a court appearance where he said he was guilty of carrying out the shooting, and was charged with more than 100 criminal counts, including murder and attempted murder. Multiple media reports said unnamed law enforcement officials told reporters Dear said "no more baby parts" as he was taken into custody after the shooting standoff, which injured nine and killed three. Dear is due back in court in February and could face the death penalty.
Harris County district attorney Devon Anderson did not disclose what kind of records were tampered with but said in a statement that Planned Parenthood has been cleared of any wrongdoing.
"This is absolutely great news because it is a demonstration of what Planned Parenthood has said from the very beginning," Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast spokeswoman Rochelle Tafolla told media outlets. "We follow every law and regulation and these anti-abortion activists broke multiple laws to try and spread lies."