Texas Grand Jury Indicts Undercover Planned Parenthood Video Makers

Although the grand jury inititally investigated Planned Parenthood’s involvement in the trade of fetal body parts, it instead charged David Daleiden and a Center for Medical Progress colleague with tampering with a government record.

An unborn baby at 20 weeks
An unborn baby at 20 weeks (photo: Steve via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0))

HOUSTON — A Houston grand jury on Monday indicted the leaders behind the undercover videos that exposed Planned Parenthood’s role in offering fetal tissue for compensation. The grand jury had been investigating alleged misconduct by Planned Parenthood.

David Daleiden, project lead at the Center for Medical Progress, and fellow worker Sandra Merritt were indicted Jan. 25 on a second-degree felony charge of “tampering with a governmental record.”

Daleiden was also indicted for a misdemeanor charge of “purchase and sale of human organs,” according to Brian M. Rosenthal of the Houston Chronicle.

In August, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson announced a criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood, after a video released by the Center for Medical Progress showed Melissa Farrell, the director of research for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, based in Houston, discussing how abortion procedures could be altered to better obtain “intact” fetal tissue for harvesters.

Daleiden and Merritt had posed as representatives of a biologics company, meeting with Farrell to discuss possible transactions of fetal tissue.

According to her July 29 testimony before the Texas Senate, former Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast facility director Abby Johnson claimed that the business made up to $120,000 per month off of fetal-tissue transactions.

On Monday, however, the grand jury announced that instead of indicting Planned Parenthood, they were indicting Daleiden and Merritt.

Anderson announced that “we must go where the evidence leads us,” according to the Houston Chronicle.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced afterward that the indictment would not alter the state’s investigation into Planned Parenthood.

“Nothing about today's announcement in Harris County impacts the state's ongoing investigation,” Abbott said, the Chronicle reported. “The state of Texas will continue to protect life, and I will continue to support legislation prohibiting the sale or transfer of fetal tissue.”

Rep. Diane Black,R-Tenn., a former nurse, called it “a sad day in America when those who harvest the body parts of aborted babies escape consequences for their actions, while the courageous truth-tellers who expose their misdeeds are handed down a politically motivated indictment instead.”

Last summer, the Center for Medical Progress released a series of undercover video interviews with Planned Parenthood officials as an exposé of the role the organization and its affiliates played in the transfer of fetal tissue to harvesters for compensation.

Federal law generally prohibits the sale of fetal tissue but allows for “reasonable” compensation for the donation of tissue from aborted babies for research. This compensation would cover expenses like operating and transportation costs. The compensation cannot be for “valuable consideration.”

Planned Parenthood has maintained that its affiliates have acted within the law. The Center for Medical Progress has claimed that the organization broke the law by earning unlawful profits from the transactions.

Both House and Senate committees have launched investigations into the organization for wrongdoing, and the House has created a special investigative committee for that purpose, but no evidence has yet been publicized confirming the accusations.