Texas grand jury indicts anti-abortion activists

Monday, Jan. 25 saw the indictment by a grand jury of two anti-abortion activists from the Center for Medical Progress. They stand accused of tampering with the governmental record for their publication of an undercover video, purported to show Planned Parenthood officials negotiating illegal sales of donated human fetal tissue.

The announcement by a grand jury in Houston, Texas potentially could see accused David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt face 20-year sentences for their video and image publications, that have since been used as evidence by Republican officials to push for the suspension of Planned Parenthood services across the United States.

“The Center for Medical Progress uses the same undercover techniques that investigative journalists have used for decades in exercising our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press, and follows all applicable laws,” the accused have argued in an statement following the indictment.

The indictment comes as a severe U-turn in the organizations fortunes since their undercover video was released last summer. The district attorney’s office responded to calls to investigate the Texas branch of Planned Parenthood following accusations by Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbot of the organization harvesting body parts for profit.

The Center for Medical Progress has been able to count on the support of figures such as Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, condemning the indictment as punishing those who are exposing a criminal enterprise, while accommodating those who perform it.

Former federal prosecutor Philip Hilder has noted the reversal in the case to be unusual but likely indicates the grand jury has received new evidence, which has cleared Planned Parenthood and now evidencing David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt’s actions as criminal.

“The grand jury started out looking at one entity and realized they were being used and turned the tables,” he said. “And that is what a grand jury is supposed to do. They are supposed to be an independent investigative body.”

Planned Parenthood despite this continues facing opposition, with Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana Republicans continuing efforts to cut off Medicare funding. However Planned Parenthood praised the grand jury for helping move towards addressing heavily edited and thoroughly discredited evidence being used in the debate of accessing reproductive health services.

“House Republicans should admit when they’re wrong,” stated Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky and member of the oversight panel. “Their relentless and baseless efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and their select investigative panel must stop.”

[Reuters] [Wall Street Journal] [CNN] [Houston Chronicle] [The Gazette] [The Hill]