The indictment of two pro-life activists from the Center for Medical Progress has sparked outrage in the pro-life community. Though Harris County, Texas, District Attorney Devon Anderson convened a grand jury in Houston to investigate possible illegal acts by Planned Parenthood, jurors ended up indicting David Daleiden, the investigative journalist who exposed the abortion giant’s baby body-parts business.
From the beginning, pro-lifers have questioned the ability of the DA’s office to conduct an unbiased investigation. Last year, the pro-life group Operation Rescue revealed that Lauren Reeder, a prosecutor in the DA’s office, sits on the board of directors of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, the Houston-area abortion provider that was under investigation. In her LinkedIn profile, Reeder touts her experience as former co-chair of Planned Parenthood Young Leaders, saying she “worked to cultivate the next generation of donors and community leaders committed to the mission of Planned Parenthood through advocacy opportunities, monthly happy hours, and annual fundraisers.”
Though Operation Rescue suggested the DA appoint an independent prosecutor, Anderson told the Houston Chronicle last August that Reeder wouldn’t be involved in the investigation.
“If at any time in the future, reliable and credible information is brought to my attention that would question our ability to continue to perform a fair, thorough, and independent investigation of this matter due to her board membership, I will revisit the issue of seeking the appointment of an independent prosecutor and act accordingly,” she said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement he would continue supporting legislation banning fetal tissue sales and transfers. And Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement that a state-level investigation into Planned Parenthood would continue: “The fact remains that the videos exposed the horrific nature of abortion and the shameful disregard for human life of the abortion industry.”
The grand jury charged Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, a CMP employee, with tampering with a government record. Daleiden was also indicted for a misdemeanor related to purchasing human organs.
The relevant state law, “Prohibition of the Purchase and Sale of Human Organs,” states an offer to buy or an offer to sell human organs is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine up to $4,000. If convicted of tampering with a government record, Daleiden and Merritt could face up to 20 years in prison. This is the first time anyone from CMP has faced criminal charges.
If Anderson decides to move forward with the charges, Daleiden and Merritt could settle for a plea agreement or request a trial.
CMP had a chorus of supporters on social media after news of the indictment broke yesterday. Daleiden’s defenders accused the grand jury of shooting the messenger.
“It’s as though the Watergate House Judiciary Committee were to have impeached Woodward & Bernstein instead of Nixon,” tweeted Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
Cheryl Sullenger, senior vice president of Operation Rescue, echoed Moore’s sentiments in a statement to LifeNews.com: “We were disappointed, to say the least, by the news that a grand jury chose to indict the investigative journalists who were trying to expose and report crimes in Houston, Texas. This has the effect of chilling the First Amendment freedom of the press and could scare crime witnesses away from coming forward for fear that they might suffer similar retaliatory prosecution.”
But others see in the indictment an opportunity to further publicize Planned Parenthood’s atrocities, this time in a court of law.
“Whatever laws may have been broken by CMP’s investigative methods won’t amount to a hill of beans if the videos are entered as evidence, examined by a jury, and the truthfulness of that record is established,” conservative commentator Steve Berman wrote. “It’s going to be very uncomfortable for [Planned Parenthood] executives on the witness stand, under direct and cross-examination by CMP’s defense counsel.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
— by Courtney Crandell & Lynde Langdon | WNS