All Charges Dropped Against Anti-Abortion Activists Who Infiltrated Planned Parenthood
order to "investigate" the sale of fetal tissue at Planned Parenthood.
Sandra Merritt and David Daleiden were charged with tampering with a government record, and Daleiden had also been charged — ironically — with soliciting the sale of fetal tissue (that charge was already dropped last month).
The anti-abortion activists with the radical-right group Center For Medical Progress, based in California, had used the fake IDs to enter the Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast location pretending to work for a made-up fetal-donation company called "Biomax Procurement Services, LLC." Then, they infiltrated Planned Parenthood and set up a meeting with a representative to discuss fetal tissue donation (which is legal, and which Planned Parenthood has admitted to doing in the past, but not for several years) and secretly filmed the encounter. They produced a heavily edited "sting video," claiming to have nabbed Planned Parenthood for illegally selling baby parts.
Their "investigation" prompted several attorneys general across the country, including Ken Paxton in Texas, to investigate the abortion provider for this alleged illegal activity, but none of the investigations turned up any wrongdoing. A Harris County grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood entirely — then instead decided to indict Merritt and Daleiden for their shady tactics, eliciting outrage from abortion-hating conservatives everywhere.
It's not entirely clear why prosecutors decided to drop the charges — according to the Houston Chronicle, a formal hearing to consider the legitimacy of the indictment hadn't even been held yet. In a statement, here's how the Harris County District Attorney's Office vaguely explained the prosecutors' decision:
"The grand jury took the investigation where the facts led it, however Texas law limits what can be investigated after a grand jury extension order is issued. In light of this and after careful research and review, this office dismissed the indictments."
Anti-abortion activists have appeared to conflate the dismissal of criminal charges against the activists with proof that Planned Parenthood did something wrong, still believing that they actually won a gotcha-game with Merritt and Daleiden's sting video. Naming only Merritt, here's what the right-leaning legal group Liberty Counsel, which represents Merritt in the federal lawsuit that Planned Parenthood filed against her, had to say about this apparent victory for anti-abortion conservatives:
"She exposed the sale of baby body parts by Planned Parenthood and today she has been vindicated,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel. “The indictment was politically motivated and should never have been filed in the first place."
Politically motivated? Remember, this all took place in Harris County with a Republican district attorney who was jeered by conservatives for months after the activists were indicted. District Attorney Devon Anderson said then, "The inconvenient truth of a criminal investigation is that it doesn’t always lead where you want to go. Anyone who pays attention knows that I’m pro-life. I believe abortion is wrong, but my personal belief does not relieve me of my obligation to follow the law.”