By Ellen Arkfeld
In July, the Center for Medical Progress released controversial videos that appeared to show Planned Parenthood selling fetal tissue for profit. In these videos, the Center’s founders, anti-abortion activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, obtained footage using hidden cameras by posing as middlemen for researchers and offering to pay for fetal tissue in an attempt to catch Planned Parenthood employees selling it.
A grand jury was convened to determine whether any charges could be brought against Planned Parenthood. In a turn of events, the citizens of Texas instead indicted the video-makers for tampering with government records. The two could face up to 20 years in prison. Daleiden has also been indicted for attempting to buy human organs because his own footage captured him offering to pay for the tissue.
Devon Anderson, the Harrison County District Attorney, said that the court has cleared Planned Parenthood of breaking the law. At federal law, medical providers may accept donations for providing researchers with tissue, but they may not profit from selling it. The organization says that it only accept reimbursements for the cost of preserving tissue in order to donate it. The videos do show a Planned Parenthood employee discussing fetal tissue donations, but not actually selling tissue for profit.
Daleiden and Merritt released a statement saying that they have not broken any laws. They claim their investigative techniques were within their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, and maintain that their videos do in fact show Planned Parenthood selling tissue.
While this is certainly a victory for supporters of Planned Parenthood, the investigation is not over. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick announced that the Senate would continue to probe the organization, and others are initiating their own investigations.
And despite the court’s recent decision, the videos have already had a profound impact. Legal issues aside, the apparent callousness of the situation triggered a wave of antagonism and suspicion toward the organization.
In the fall, Congress attempted to defund Planned Parenthood; the plan ultimately failed to garner majority support. Another attempt to defund the organization was made by Republicans in January, and this time it was quashed by presidential veto. President Obama said that such a measure would “reverse the significant progress we have made in improving healthcare in America.”
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