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.
Pushed by Texas’ anti-abortion lieutenant governor to weigh in on a purported video “sting” last summer by pro-life extremists in California, the grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood and instead indicted David Daleiden, its most public accuser, along with one of his fellow Center for Medical Progress activists.
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.
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Anderson said Daleiden and his employee Sandra Merritt would face felony charges of tampering with a governmental record and, in Daleiden’s case, a misdemeanor count related to attempted purchasing of human organs. The two had posed as biotech executives and outfitted themselves with hidden cameras in a years-long attempt to prove that Planned Parenthood was illegally profiting from abortion. A separate civil suit filed by Planned Parenthood this month in U.S. District Court in San Francisco charged that Daleiden and others used identity theft and faked government documents.
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 only puzzling thing is that this reality check didn’t come from California first.
Six months ago, at the behest of four Democratic congresswomen, Attorney General Kamala Harris – who is running for U.S. Senate – said she would review whether Daleiden and company had violated state law in California.
An aide to Harris said the investigation is ongoing and wouldn’t comment further. But we can thank Texans in the meantime for stepping up against destructive zealotry here.