January 26, 2016

Grand jury stands up for Planned Parenthood

Guardian -  In a surprise move, a Texas grand jury investigating Planned Parenthood wrapped up by issuing several indictments not to the women’s healthcare provider, but to two of the anti-abortion activists who had prompted the investigation.

The grand jury, convened by the Harris County district attorney’s office, indicted David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt for tampering with a governmental record, the DA’s office announced. Daleiden received a second indictment under a law prohibiting the purchase and sale of human organs.

Daleiden is the founder of the group, the Center for Medical Progress, that filmed and released a series of sting videos edited so they appeared to show Planned Parenthood employees selling fetal tissue in violation of federal law.

Planned Parenthood denies the accusations, saying it donates fetal tissue to medical research companies at no cost. The only money it has received, it says, has been reimbursement for transportation and storage costs. (Planned Parenthood recently announced that it would no longer accept reimbursements.) In a separate lawsuit, filed earlier this month, Planned Parenthood accused Daleiden and his group in court of “engaging in wire fraud, mail fraud, invasion of privacy, illegal secret recording, and trespassing”.

The accusations in the videos have been disproved, including by a string of state-level investigations that found no wrongdoing on the part of Planned Parenthood. Still, the videos resulted in five separate congressional investigations of Planned Parenthood and unsuccessful efforts by Republicans in Congress to strip the group of some half a billion dollars in federal family planning funds. Conservatives in some half-a-dozen states also attempted to strip the group of hundreds of thousands of dollars of state and federal family planning funds and Medicaid contracts.

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