Shortly after reporting that Planned Parenthood was suing anti-abortion activist David Daleiden and his Irvine-based front group the Center for Medical Progress, one of his representatives contacted the Weekly about covering his client’s attempt to supply “evidence” to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of a controversial law in Texas that, opponents say, gets in the way of women having abortions.
But is a surprising development announced Tuesday, a grand jury in Harris County, Texas, empaneled to investigate criminal wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood determined that the only indictments warranted in the case are directed at Daleiden and his Center for Medical Progress (CMP) mate Sandra Merritt. Each face felony tampering with a governmental record and the possibility of 20 years in prison.
According to the Harris County District Clerk’s website, a warrant for Daleiden was issued Monday evening.
This all stems from the CMP’s three-year sting aimed at proving Planned Parenthood profits from selling fetal tissue. Undercover videos were shot of representatives of the women’s health organization lunching with prospective buyers from a fake company CMP created called BioMax. The videos were heavily edited to make it appear that Planned Parenthood was indeed in the fetal tissue business despite official claims swearing otherwise.
With Daleiden and his co-horts making full-court presses to get the videos introduced as evidence in investigations and court cases concerning Planned Parenthood, the abortion provider fired back earlier this month with its lawsuit alleging state and federal laws were broken through the creation of false identities, mail and wire fraud, breaking confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements, and violating privacy by illegally recording conversations. Planned Parenthood seeks unspecified damages from Daleiden, five others, CMP and, though fictional, BioMax.
Last July, the National Abortion Federation sued Daleiden and his group in federal court for breach of confidentiality and invasion of privacy, over separate undercover recordings at NAF conferences.
“The true aim of these lawsuits brought by Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation (NAF) against Daleiden is not justice, but rather the obstruction of justice,” says Tom Brejcha, Thomas More Society president and chief counsel, in a statement sent after the Weekly‘s first story. The Thomas More Society is providing pro bono legal representation to the CMP.
“Planned Parenthood and NAF are working to shut down Daleiden’s investigation of the abortion groups’ involvement in baby parts trafficking,” Brejcha continues. “But equally as any other investigative journalist working for ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, or your local print or electronic media outlet may regularly resort to undercover journalism tactics to ferret out hidden crime, so too David Daleiden should have the right to penetrate the criminal underworld of America’s abortion providers and report all the evidence he has uncovered of criminal wrongdoing to law enforcement and to members of the public.”
(Um … didn’t ABC get popped for reporters falsely posing as slaughterhouse workers?)
Shortly after that statement from the Thomas Moore Society, the Weekly received another revealing its attorneys representing Daleiden planned to file a motion to allow him to provide the U.S. Supreme Court with evidence in support of the Texas abortion regulations case (Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole). The group did not get specific about the nature of the evidence, but it would be interesting if it’s the same sort that is now being used against Daleiden in Texas.
More tragically, since the release of Daleiden’s footage last October, there has been a wave of violence against women’s health clinics. Anti-abortion political candidates, including presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina, have also been using Daleiden’s “evidence” in hopes of advancing their campaigns.
However, 11 investigations by various states have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing. And these Texas indictments? They were brought by a Republican district attorney appointed by a Republican lieutenant governor to unearth criminal dirt on Planned Parenthood.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.