Tuesday, January 26, 2016

ABORTION - Texas Grand Jury Decision

"ABORTION OPPONENTS INDICTED OVER VIDEOS" U-T News Service, San Diego Union-Tribune 1/26/2016

NOTE: This is from the on-line print paper, so no links

Group targeted Planned Parenthood

A Houston grand jury investigating undercover footage of Planned Parenthood found no wrongdoing Monday by the abortion provider, and instead indicted antiabortion activists involved in making the videos that targeted the handling of fetal tissue in clinics and provoked outrage among Republican leaders nationwide.

David Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress, was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanor count related to purchasing human organs.  Another activist, Sandra Merritt, was also indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.  It’s the first time anyone in the group has been charged criminally since the release of the videos, which began surfacing last year and alleged that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue to researchers for a profit in violation of federal law.  Planned Parenthood officials have denied any wrongdoing and the allegations have not been supported in numerous congressional and state investigations triggered by the release of the videos.

The footage from the clinic in Houston showed people touring the facility while pretending to be from a company called BioMax, which procures fetal tissue for research.  Planned Parenthood has previously said that the fake company sent an agreement offering to pay the “astronomical amount” of $1,600 for organs from a fetus.  The clinic said it never entered into the agreement and ceased contact with BioMax because it was “disturbed” by the overtures.

Organ-buying charges

In a statement announcing the indictment, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson did not provide details on the charges, including what record or records were allegedly tampered with and why Daleiden faces a charge related to buying human organs.  Her office said it could not disclose more information, and a court spokesman said it was unclear whether copies of the indictments, which typically provide more insight, would be made public Monday.

“We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast,” Anderson, an elected Republican, said in her statement.  “As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us.”  In a statement Monday night, Daleiden said: “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.  We respect the processes of the Harris County district attorney, and note that buying fetal tissue requires a seller as well.  Planned Parenthood still cannot deny the admissions from their leadership about fetal organ sales captured on video for all the world to see.”  Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, said Monday that the inspector general of the state’s Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas attorney general’s office have been investigating Planned Parenthood’s actions.

“Nothing about today’s announcement in Harris County impacts the state’s ongoing investigation,” Abbott said in a statement.  “The state of Texas will continue to protect life, and I will continue to support legislation prohibiting the sale or transfer of fetal tissue.”

The state attorney general, Ken Paxton, said in a statement: “The fact remains that the videos exposed the horrific nature of abortion and the shameful disregard for human life of the abortion industry.  The state’s investigation of Planned Parenthood is ongoing.”

The Texas video was the fifth released by the Center for Medical Progress.  The videos provoked an outcry from the anti-abortion movement and prompted numerous investigations of Planned Parenthood by Republican-led committees in Congress and by GOP-led state governments.  Congressional Republicans unsuccessfully called for cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood.

Cleared by states’ probes

Officials in 11 states have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing after investigating claims that they profited from fetal tissue donation, officials said.  The states are Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Washington.  Officials in eight other states— California, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Virginia — declined to investigate, citing a lack of evidence.  Planned Parenthood has said a few clinics in two states used to accept legally allowed reimbursement for the costs of providing tissue donated by some of its abortion clients.  In October, Planned Parenthood announced that it would no longer accept reimbursement and would cover the costs itself.

Federal law allows fetal tissue to be collected and used, but not for profit.  Medical ethics prohibit altering the timing, method or procedures used to terminate a pregnancy purely to obtain fetal tissue.  Planned Parenthood called Monday’s indictments the latest in a string of victories since the videos were released, and pointed to the 11 state investigations that cleared the nation’s largest abortion provider.

“This is absolutely great news because it is a demonstration of what Planned Parenthood has said from the very beginning: We follow every law and regulation and these anti-abortion activists broke multiple laws to try and spread lies,” said spokeswoman Rochelle Tafolla of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.

Before the Texas video was released, Melaney Linton, president of the Houston Planned Parenthood clinic, told state lawmakers last summer that it was likely to feature actors — pretending to be from a company called BioMax — asking leading questions about how to select potential donors for a supposed study of sickle cell anemia.  Linton said the footage could feature several interactions initiated by BioMax about how and whether a doctor could adjust an abortion if a patient has offered to donate tissue for medical research.

Despite the lofty name of the Center for Medical Progress, public filings suggest only a small number of people are affiliated with the nonprofit, none of whom are scientists or physicians engaged in advancing medical treatments.  The people named as its top officers are longtime anti-abortion activists with a history of generating headlines.

This month in federal court in San Francisco, Planned Parenthood sued the center, Daleiden and other abortion opponents involved in the videos.  The suit accused them of engaging in a three-year criminal enterprise to target the group.

“These people broke the law to spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood in order to advance their extreme anti-abortion political agenda,” Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement Monday.

“These anti-abortion extremists spent three years creating a fake company, creating fake identities, lying and breaking the law,” said Ferrero.  “When they couldn’t find any improper or illegal activity, they made it up.  “As the dust settles and the truth comes out, it’s become totally clear that the only people who engaged in wrongdoing are the criminals behind this fraud, and we’re glad they’re being held accountable.”

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