A push by Texas legislators to indict officials at Planned Parenthood didn’t turn out the way they expected when a grand jury investigating the matter instead focused on some Planned Parenthood critics.
Last year, Texas officials sought to punish Planned Parenthood in response to “sting” videos produced by David Daleiden and his far-right anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress (CMP).
Daleiden and CMP released deceptively edited films purportedly showing two Planned Parenthood officials discussing the organization’s practice of selling fetal tissue to biomedical research firms, an action that if it were true would be illegal.
Religious Right groups used the videos to claim that Planned Parenthood was violating federal law. In response, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Religious Right ally, began a probe into Planned Parenthood in August. Patrick called the videos “gruesome and barbaric.”
A state attorney charged with the investigation promised at the time to be thorough.
“I want to assure everyone in Houston that I will use every resource allocated to this office to conduct a thorough investigation,” Harris County Attorney General Devon Anderson, an appointee of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), said in August. “Should we find that laws were broken, we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.”
But in an unexpected turn of events, a Houston grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast of wrongdoing in January and then promptly indicted both Daleiden and one of his allies, Sandra Merritt, on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record.
In an ironic twist, Daleiden was also indicted for violating a ban on the trading of human organs. Planned Parenthood had alleged that Daleiden, Merritt and others used fake I.D.s and credit cards, invented a phony human tissue procurement company and stole the identity of one of Daleiden’s former high school classmates in order to make their videos.
Following the grand jury decision, Harris County officials offered a muted response.
“We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast,” Anderson said in a statement. “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.”