Anti-Abortion Activists Behind Damning Planned Parenthood Videos Cleared Of Wrongdoing

Two anti-abortion activists, who were responsible for damning Planned Parenthood videos that made it look as if the agency was selling body parts, have been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, The Dallas Morning News is reporting. District Judge Brock Thomas dismissed all charges against the pair on Tuesday.

David Daleiden, 27, and Sandra Merritt, 63, had both been facing felony charges of tampering with government records for their role in the videos. Prosecutors charged that the pair used bogus driver’s licenses to gain access to Planned Parenthood and set up their undercover sting.

In 2015, Daleiden and Merritt, operating on behalf of the anti-abortion group, Center for Medical Progress, released a series of undercover videos that, depending on whom you ask, either revealed that Planned Parenthood was illegally selling body parts of aborted fetuses, or were carefully crafted and heavily edited to make Planned Parenthood look like they were selling body parts of aborted fetuses.

Posing as representatives of the non-existent biomedical company, Biomax Procurement Services, the duo recorded “hundreds, if not thousands of hours” of footage of Planned Parenthood personnel discussing the procurement of body parts of aborted fetuses. In one video, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services, discusses the matter with the two operatives. The video appeared to show that Planned Parenthood accepted money for those body parts.

Almost immediately, the reaction from conservatives in Washington threatened to hold up additional federal funding for Planned Parenthood, according to a July 2015 New York Times report. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky promised to “introduce an amendment to pending Senate legislation to immediately strip every dollar of Planned Parenthood funding.” Similarly, Ted Cruz also called for a federal investigation into Planned Parenthood, and he threatened to strip federal funding. Similarly, two Republican governors, Greg Abbott of Texas and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, both ordered investigations into Planned Parenthood in their states.

Eventually, it became clear that the videos were, at the very least, heavily edited to make a point. According to the Times, a second, less-edited video showed that Dr. Nucatola explicitly said that Planned Parenthood does not accept money for body parts of aborted fetuses beyond a “procurement fee” of between $30 and $100 simply to cover the costs of transporting and collecting fetal tissue.

In a statement, Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said that Planned Parenthood obeyed all federal laws when it came to the disposal of aborted fetuses.

“Our donation programs — like any other high-quality health care providers — follow all laws and ethical guidelines… Planned Parenthood stands behind our work to help women and families donate tissue for medical research when they wish to.”

All federal and state investigations failed to turn up anything illegal going on at Planned Parenthood, and as the controversy about the videos died down, investigators turned their attention instead to Daleidin and Merritt themselves.

In January 2016, according to The Washington Times, Daleiden and Merritt were indicted on charges of tampering with a government record. Further, Daleiden was also charged with violating a law prohibiting the solicitation or sale of human organs, which, as the Times suggested, may have shown that “grand jurors thought he went too far in trying to snare Planned Parenthood.”

In a statement posed on the Center for Medical Progress’ website, Daleiden insisted that he and his partner did nothing wrong.

“The Center for Medical Progress follows all applicable laws in the course of its investigative journalism work.”

Do you believe that the anti-abortion activists who created the damning Planned Parenthood videos did anything wrong?

[Photo by David McNew/Getty Images]