Major newspaper editorial boards urged politicians to abandon efforts to defund and slander Planned Parenthood after a grand jury indicted two members of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), an anti-choice group that released smear videos against the women's health organization.
Center For Medical Progress Founder And Employee Indicted
Texas Grand Jury Indicted Two Members Of Anti-Choice Group Center For Medical Progress. After a Houston grand jury investigation into Planned Parenthood found no wrongdoing by the health care organization, the jury indicted Center for Medical Progress founder David Daleiden and activist Sandra Merritt for “tampering with a governmental record.” Daleiden was also indicted for a misdemeanor charge related to the attempted purchasing of human organs. The indictment came after CMP released a series of doctored videos claiming to show Planned Parenthood selling aborted fetal parts:
Prosecutors in Harris County said one of the leaders of the Center for Medical Progress -- an anti-abortion group that made secretly recorded videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials trying to illegally profit from the sale of fetal tissue -- had been indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record, a felony, and on a misdemeanor charge related to purchasing human organs.
That leader, David R. Daleiden, 27, the director of the center, had posed as a biotechnology representative to infiltrate Planned Parenthood affiliates and surreptitiously record his efforts to procure tissue for research. Another center employee, Sandra S. Merritt, 62, was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record.
The record-tampering charges accused Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt of making and presenting fake California driver's licenses, with the intent to defraud, for their April meeting at Planned Parenthood in Houston.
In making the videos, Mr. Daleiden and others have been accused of setting up a fake company called Biomax Procurement Services, creating fake identities and claiming to be part of a legitimate provider of fetal tissue to researchers.
The fake IDs used by Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt, images of which were included as exhibits in court documents, resemble California-issued licenses. Mr. Daleiden went by Robert Sarkis on his license, and Ms. Merritt used the name Susan Sarah Tennenbaum. Warrants were issued for each defendant with a bond amount of $10,000. [The New York Times, 1/25/16]
Editorial Boards Praise Grand Jury For “Adhering To The Facts” And Call On Politicians To Give Up “On A Losing Argument”
New York Times Editorial Board: Jurors Who Indicted CMP Activists “Considered The Facts, Which ”Should Cause Politicians To Back Away" From Attacking Planned Parenthood. In a January 26 editorial titled “Vindication for Planned Parenthood,” The New York Times editorial board applauded the decision of the Texas grand jury to indict the anti-choice activists, writing, “fortunately, in the Harris County case, the jurors considered the facts.” The board noted that CMP is “an anti-abortion group that will stop at nothing to attack Planned Parenthood” and pointed out the “destructive effect” the videos have had on women's health. The board also argued that "[t]he indictments should cause politicians to back away from an anti-abortion group that will stop at nothing to attack Planned Parenthood":
The Harris County prosecutor, Devon Anderson, a Republican who was asked by the lieutenant governor, a strident opponent of Planned Parenthood, to open the criminal investigation, said on Monday that the grand jurors had cleared Planned Parenthood of any misconduct.
Fortunately, in the Harris County case, the jurors considered the facts. David Daleiden, the director of the Center for Medical Progress, which released the videos, and Sandra Merritt, an employee, were indicted on felony charges of tampering with governmental records, probably connected to their alleged use of fake driver's licenses to get into a Planned Parenthood office.
Neither the videos nor the many investigations that followed have found any evidence that Planned Parenthood employees offered to sell fetal tissue for a profit. Texas is the 12th state in which investigations stemming from the videos have found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. In October, Representative Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, admitted that the committee's investigation of Planned Parenthood had found no evidence of misconduct.
Nonetheless, the videos have already had a destructive effect. Texas and several other states have moved to defund Planned Parenthood; a bill to deny money to the group in Ohio is before the State Senate this week. A bill that would pull federal money from Planned Parenthood has reached the president, who is sure to veto it.
These efforts threaten to deprive the country's poorest women of health services they need, including cancer screenings, contraceptive care and sexually transmitted infection testing. In many parts of the country, Planned Parenthood is the only source of contraceptive services for low-income women.
Several Republican presidential candidates continue to treat the falsehoods presented by the Center for Medical Progress as fact. In response to Monday's indictments, Carly Fiorina, for one, said, “Planned Parenthood has been trafficking in body parts,” a claim she has made repeatedly on the campaign trail.
The indictments should cause politicians to back away from an anti-abortion group that will stop at nothing to attack Planned Parenthood. [The New York Times, 1/26/16]
Washington Post Editorial Board: Prosecutors And Jurors Were “Adhering To The Facts” Putting Them “At Odds” With Anti-Choice Politicians' "Evidence-Free Crusade" Against Planned Parenthood. On January 26, The Washington Post editorial board condemned lawmakers for “seeking to defund Planned Parenthood” and “trying to block access to care at Planned Parenthood clinics” following the indictments. The board argued that "[b]y adhering to the facts, prosecutors and grand jurors set a model of behavior that puts them at odds with" politicians chastising Planned Parenthood:
'WE MUST go where the evidence leads us." So explained a Texas district attorney about why an investigation into alleged misconduct by Planned Parenthood ended instead with charges against Planned Parenthood's accusers. By adhering to the facts, prosecutors and grand jurors set a model of behavior that puts them at odds with the politicians -- in Congress, in statehouses and on the Republican presidential campaign trail -- who have tried to advance their agendas by falsely demonizing an organization that provides critical health care to women. In their evidence-free crusade, they have put vital health services at risk and wasted millions of taxpayer dollars.
A Houston grand jury on Monday returned indictments against two antiabortion activists involved in producing the explosive “sting” videos that purported to show Planned Parenthood personnel selling aborted fetal organs for profit. That the damaging but long-discredited videos showed nothing of the kind was underscored by Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson's statement that the grand jury had cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing. Instead, the head of the Center for Medical Progress and another employee were charged with felony counts of tampering with a government record, presenting fake driver's licenses with intent to harm or defraud. Center head David R. Daleiden was also charged with a misdemeanor count related to offering to buy human tissue.
Unfortunately, none of that has kept congressional Republicans from seeking to defund Planned Parenthood, nor hostile state governments from trying to block access to care at Planned Parenthood clinics. And don't hold your breath waiting for an apology from Carly Fiorina or other Republican presidential candidates who have demagogued the issue. Even in the face of this finding of no wrongdoing by a group of citizens relying on evidence, logic and common sense, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) insisted the state would continue its own investigation of Planned Parenthood. After all, how important are the facts when there is self-interest to be served and a political point to be made? [The Washington Post, 1/26/16]
Kansas City Star Editorial Board: The Grand Jury Refused “To Be Swayed By Emotions Or Politics” Unlike Politicians Who “Are Willing To Abandon Restraint And Fairness” To Attack Planned Parenthood. On January 26, The Kansas City Star editorial board praised the grand jury for “rely[ing] on factual information” and for its “refusal to be swayed by emotions or politics.” The board criticized the “incendiary speech and actions” of Republican politicians attacking Planned Parenthood, writing that “too many politicians are willing to abandon restraint and fairness”:
Unlike a legion of politicians, a grand jury in Texas was compelled to rely on factual information as it considered whether Planned Parenthood had broken laws prohibiting making a profit from the sale of fetal tissue and fetal organs.
Planned Parenthood did nothing wrong, the jurors decided. But they indicted two persons involved in the production of deceptive videos that set off a wave of fury against the women's health provider.
The panel's refusal to be swayed by emotion or politics is a reminder that an independent judicial process is one of our nation's greatest assets.
That's especially true in a time when too many politicians are willing to abandon restraint and fairness.
Daleiden's videos, which purported to show Planned Parenthood employees engaged in the illegal sale of fetal tissue and body parts, have touched off multiple investigations.
Republicans in the U.S. Congress and many state leaders have used them to demand that the women's health provider be stripped of government funds, including reimbursement for care to Medicaid patients.
Investigations have found no evidence of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood in at least 11 states, including Missouri and Kansas. But that hasn't stopped the incendiary speech and actions. [The Kansas City Star, 1/26/16]
SF Chronicle Editorial Board: Anti-Choice Lawmakers “Aren't Giving Up On A Losing Argument” Even After Grand Jury Indicted CMP Members. On January 26, the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board called the indictment of the CMP activists “startling and deserved” and wrote that their smear videos were “phony results gathered with phony methods.” The board explained that “even after the grand jury actions, the falsity of the videos isn't sinking in” and lamented that Texas lawmakers “aren't giving up on a losing argument and will pursue yet another investigation of Planned Parenthood”:
Phony results gathered with phony methods. That's the upshot of a startling and deserved grand jury indictment in Texas of two abortion foes who conjured up a video that accused Planned Parenthood of selling fetus parts for profit.
The widely viewed video has turned out to be plainly false because Planned Parenthood doesn't illegally sell body parts as numerous investigations have shown, but the claim has taken hold anyway.
It's cited in the Republican presidential primary to rally abortion opponents and used to defame and defund the organization. It's played into the interminable and destructive abortion wars that have led to laws closing clinics and an upcoming Supreme Court decision on such legislation. In November a demented gunman killed three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. His reasoning? “No more baby parts.”
The grand jury issued the felony and misdemeanor charges in Texas, where antiabortion lawmakers had asked for the inquiry, fully expecting a result that suited them. But the local Republican district attorney took the case to jurors who followed the evidence in another direction.
Even after the grand jury actions, the falsity of the videos isn't sinking in. Texas lawmakers, from the governor on down, aren't giving up on a losing argument and will pursue yet another investigation of Planned Parenthood. [San Francisco Chronicle, 1/26/16]
Des Moines Register Editorial Board: After Indictment The Priority Should Be “Moving On” From Attacking Planned Parenthood. In a January 26 editorial, The Des Moines Register editorial board called on anti-choice politicians to start "[m]oving on" from attacking Planned Parenthood after CMP's indictment and to ignore “such deceptive ploys from anti-abortion zealots” in the future. They also asked whether anti-choice politicians will “demand the same rigorous investigations into the Center for Medical Progress as they did into Planned Parenthood”:
On Monday, a Houston grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing. Better yet, in a surprise twist, it indicted employees of the Center for Medical Progress, the organization that recorded the videos.
The question now: Will anti-choice politicians pay as much attention to this indictment as they did to the deceptive clips from video recordings? Will they demand the same rigorous investigations into the Center for Medical Progress as they did into Planned Parenthood?
After all, they cited these videotapes when calling to end the use of fetal tissue in medical research and ban abortions after 20 weeks. Members of Congress spent hours grandstanding in televised hearings on the issue. Republicans, including Sen. Joni Ernst, were willing to hold hostage the entire federal budget to avoid reimbursing Planned Parenthood for health services, including cancer screenings and birth control. Back in Iowa, some state lawmakers caught the fever. Just a few weeks ago, Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, said eliminating all state funding for Planned Parenthood in Iowa would be “at the top of the list” of legislative priorities this session.
What should be their priority today: Moving on.
What should be their priority in the future: Ignoring such deceptive ploys from anti-abortion zealots. [The Des Moines Register, 1/26/16]
Portland Press Herald Editorial Board: After Indictment Of CMP Members, “Policymakers Should Now Shift Their Focus” From Efforts To Defund Planned Parenthood. On January 27, the Portland Press Herald editorial board lamented that the indictment of the CMP members “doesn't undo the damage the 'sting' tapes have done,” noting that “the videos also sparked a baseless campaign to block the disbursement of federal funds for Planned Parenthood.” The board called on policymakers to “shift their focus from depriving Planned Parenthood of financial support” and start “making sure that it's accessible to more of those who need its services”:
The anti-abortion activists whose notorious videos accused Planned Parenthood of illegal for-profit fetal tissue sales are now facing criminal charges themselves. But the indictment doesn't undo the damage the “sting” tapes have done to Planned Parenthood's reputation and funding - at the expense of the women it serves.
The charges follow a Houston grand jury's investigation into undercover footage shot by David Deleiden and Sandra Merritt of the Center for Medical Progress. No wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood was discovered. However, Deleiden and Merritt each face a felony count of governmental record-tampering for allegedly making and presenting fake driver's licenses for their April meeting with Planned Parenthood officials.
The release of the covert recordings last summer fueled a controversy that has yet to simmer down. Maine has so far been spared the most dire fallout, including a fatal shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood and arsons and a spate of attacks elsewhere.
The videos also sparked a baseless campaign to block the disbursement of federal funds for Planned Parenthood. A defunding proposal stalled in Augusta but enjoyed a major symbolic victory in Washington, making it all the way to President Obama's desk before being vetoed.
The federal funding that's been under attack ensures basic health care for millions of low-income American women (abortion gets no U.S. government appropriations). At all levels of government, policymakers should now shift their focus from depriving Planned Parenthood of financial support to making sure that it's accessible to more of those who need its services. [Portland Press Herald, 1/27/16]
New Jersey Star-Ledger Editorial Board: “Justice Was Finally Served” With Indictment Of Anti-Choice Activists “Who Perpetrated The Scam.” On January 27, The New Jersey Star-Ledger editorial board wrote that “justice was finally served” by the grand jury's indictment of the CMP activists and that “the real scandal is how doctored videos were used to motivate demagogues” to attack women's health care. The board also noted that one should not “expect to hear apologies” from Republican politicians attacking Planned Parenthood, arguing, “in the end, the GOP destroyed its credibility, again”:
A grand jury has found criminal behavior in that third-rate con known as the Planned Parenthood video sting operation, and it is worth noting the place where justice was finally served.
Remarkably, the decision to indict anti-abortion activists from the Center for Medical Progress - which contrived a horror film about human chop shops and illegal profits made from fetal tissue sales - was made by a grand jury convened by a Republican DA in Texas.
The jury looked at the video and saw a scam, and decided not only to vindicate Planned Parenthood but to file a felony charge against those who perpetuated the scam.
So a national firestorm should fizzle in Harris County, but the real scandal is how doctored videos were used to motivate demagogues to defund the healthcare provider for 2.8 million American women, many of them on Medicaid.
Don't expect to hear apologies from the five Congressional committees whose hearings were face-plants, notably one entitled Planned Parenthood Exposed: Examining The Horrific Abortion Practices at The Nation's Leading Abortion Provider; or from candidates like Carly Fiorina, who lied about “fully formed fetuses. . . .being harvested”; or any other pol whose rhetoric inspired Robert Dear, the Colorado Springs shooting suspect.
In the end, the GOP destroyed its credibility, again. [The New Jersey Star-Ledger, 1/27/16]
Sacramento Bee Editorial Board: “Kudos To The Grand Jurors ... For Going 'Where The Evidence Leads Us'” With Indictments Of CMP Members. On January 25, The Sacramento Bee editorial board praised the grand jury, writing that “after a months-long political witch hunt” against Planned Parenthood, the grand jury “found evidence of a crime” committed by the anti-choice activists by “going 'where the evidence leads.'” The board noted that “conservative politicians have exploited the videos” released by CMP, but “none of the allegations have stuck”:
After a months-long political witch hunt for criminal activity at Planned Parenthood clinics, authorities finally came around to the view of anti-abortion activists this week.
On Monday, a grand jury in Houston found evidence of a crime, all right. Just not by the contraception and abortion provider.
Kudos to the grand jurors of Harris County and District Attorney Devon Anderson - a Republican woman - for going “where the evidence leads us,” as she put it. It couldn't have been easy; the lieutenant governor had publicly claimed that “body parts from aborted babies” appeared to be on sale at Planned Parenthood.
Conservative politicians have exploited the videos to excite their base in advance of the 2016 election, and for months have used them in innumerable attempts to pull Planned Parenthood's federal funding. None of the allegations have stuck. As the 26-year-old Daleiden, an anti-abortion activist since his teen years in Davis and at Claremont McKenna College, continued to flog his project on op-ed pages, the stunning decision in Texas signaled a gathering backlash.
Good for that, too. Daleiden's project has quintupled security incidents at California Planned Parenthood clinics and set a new bar for creepy, ideological meanness. [The Sacramento Bee, 1/25/16]