In a dramatic turnaround, two of the right-wingers who created a fraudulent series of videos designed to discredit and ultimately destroy Planned Parenthood, the largest nonprofit health care provider for poor and working women in the U.S., were indicted on Jan. 25.
The charges grew out of a two-month investigation of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast by a Houston grand jury to determine if Planned Parenthood had engaged in the illegal sale of fetal tissue for profit. That is what the deceptively edited videos created by the so-called Center for Medical Progress attempted to show when they were released last July.
Once it became obvious to the grand jury that Planned Parenthood was blameless, the evidence revealed that the right-wing group CMP had engaged in many illegal practices — including falsely presenting CMP as a biological research group, registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity in order to receive unlimited, anonymous donations. Rather, it is a front group for an anti-abortion sting operation.
Two CMP videographers, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, were charged with second-degree felonies, which carry a 20-year sentence in Texas, for tampering with government records — creating phony driver’s licenses in order to gain access to Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and interview providers there. Daleiden was also charged with trying to procure human fetal tissue for pay.
An article posted on Oliver Willis’ blog, “Who’s Behind the Center for Medical Progress?” reveals the nefarious web of anti-abortion, Christian zealots and domestic terrorists behind the misnamed “Center for Medical Progress.” (oliverwillis.com, July 30, 2015)
David Daleiden honed his skills creating fraudulent videos as “director of research” for the virulent anti-abortion Live Action group, founded by Lily Rose in 2004. The group produced a series of anti-choice videos from 2010-13 that accused abortion clinic providers and workers of illegal and unethical practices. The videos and the organization have since been widely discredited. Willis conjectures that it’s “actually possible” that CMP is a cover for Live Action.
Operation Rescue, one of the most vocal, reactionary anti-choice groups with ties to white-supremacist, racist, right-wing groups, worked “in consultation” with CMP on the videos. Troy Newman, OR president and board member of CMP — who “retired” after the indictments — defended Paul Hill, who was convicted of murder in the 2003 killing of Dr. John Britton and James Barnett outside a Pensacola, Fla., abortion clinic. OR said such murders are “justifiable” to protect the unborn. Newman advocates and practices terrorism in many forms, including stalking, harassing and intimidating clinic workers, patients and escorts.
Cheryl Sullenger, OR senior policy advisor, served time for attempting to bomb a clinic in San Diego and aided Scott Roeder, who killed abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in his church in Wichita, Kan., in 2009.
The most alarming aspect of the fraudulent videos is that many right-wing legislators in Congress and various states, as well as reactionary presidential candidates, lauded the videos and promoted a national campaign to defund Planned Parenthood. That would endanger basic health care delivery for millions of poor and working women, disproportionately women of color, immigrants, homeless women, young women, victims of domestic violence and terrorism, women living in rural areas, and women with disabilities.
Planned Parenthood was also subjected to terrorism, including several instances of arson and three murders at a clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo.; a series of insulting Congressional hearings; and investigations in a dozen states, which produced no charges.
On Jan. 15, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit in San Francisco federal district court against the CMP, alleging that the group, by setting up a fake tissue procurement company and using fake identities to set up private meetings, engaged in wire and mail fraud violation, unlawfully invaded Planned Parenthood’s privacy, and engaged in illegal secret recording and trespassing.
While legal, safe abortion has been the law of the land for the past 43 years, all women’s right to exert control over their own bodies is far from guaranteed. This spring the Supreme Court is hearing the first case about abortion rights in 25 years. The struggle for reproductive justice continues.
Kathy Durkin contributed to this article.