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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 29, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 05
Texas grand jury clears Planned Parenthood, indicts accusers
Section One
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Texas grand jury clears Planned Parenthood, indicts accusers

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A grand jury in Harris County, Texas, has cleared Planned Parenthood of charges that it illegally sold tissue from aborted fetuses and instead indicted the group's accusers.

The grand jury probe began in August 2015, after the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress released videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood employees discussing costs of preserving fetal tissue for research.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and other leading Republicans charged that Planned Parenthood was profiting by aborting fetuses and then selling their tissue.

Planned Parenthood responded that the videos had been shot under false pretenses and then edited to make the group look bad. A grand jury was then called to investigate the allegations against the women's health organization.

As it turned out, the grand jury decided to indict the videographers, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, on charges of tampering with a governmental record, a second-degree felony that carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison.

Daleiden, who posed as someone interested in trading in fetal tissue in order to shoot the video sequences, received an additional misdemeanor indictment under the law prohibiting the purchase and sale of human organs.

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson announced the surprising indictments Monday after a two-month investigation.

'We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast,' said Anderson, a Republican.

'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.'

A spokesperson for the Houston branch of Planned Parenthood said the news made the organization feel 'vindicated.'

'It's great news because it demonstrates what we have said from the very beginning, which is that Planned Parenthood is following every rule and regulation, and that these people came into our buildings under the guise of health when their true intentions were to spread lies,' said spokesperson Rochelle Tafolla. 'We're glad that these extremists have been indicted for breaking the law.'

The national organization of Planned Parenthood had said in a letter to Congress that Daleiden was involved in secretly recording staff and patients at least 65 times over the last eight years.

The organization charged that Daleiden and others used aliases, obtained fake government IDs, and formed a fake tissue procurement company in an effort to gain access to private areas and record private conversations to be deceptively edited to create a false impression.

The second indictment for Daleiden suggests that the grand jury found that he went too far in trying to entrap Planned Parenthood employees into admitting they were selling fetal tissue. He is charged with the class A misdemeanor of intentionally offering to buy or sell a human organ, including fetal tissue. If convicted, the maximum punishment is a year in jail.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement that the state attorney general and the Health and Human Services Commission still are investigating the videos.

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

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