A grand jury investigating whether a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston sold fetal tissue cleared the clinic of wrongdoing Monday but instead indicted two videographers from the Center for Medical Progress, the organization behind the undercover videos which led to the allegations.
The Houston Chronicle reported that David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt were indicted by the grand jury in Harris County on charges of tampering with a government record. Additionally, Daleiden was charged with intentionally buying or selling human organs. The first charge, a felony, carries a sentence of as many as 20 years in jail, while the second charge, a misdemeanor, could result in up to a year in prison.
Daleiden, who heads the nonprofit Center for Medical Progress, led the undercover operation that resulted in a dozen films appearing to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing and touting the sale of parts from aborted fetuses, which is illegal. The videos featured footage of an executive at the Houston Planned Parenthood clinic talking about the methods and cost of preserving organs from aborted fetuses, which led to the two-month investigation in Harris County.
To produce the videos, Daleiden and Merritt posed as representatives from a company that purchased human tissue and approached Planned Parenthood officials, secretly recording their conversations.
Planned Parenthood has denied the allegations, accusing the Center for Medical Progress of editing the tapes.
When announcing the indictments Monday, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said that the grand jury had “cleared [Planned Parenthood] of breaking the law.”
The Center for Medical Progress said in a statement that it had followed all laws when filming and producing the videos.
“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,” Daleiden said on behalf of the organization.
“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.”
A representative for Planned Parenthood said in a statement that the organization was “glad” that the videographers had been indicted, accusing them of spreading “malicious lies about Planned Parenthood in order to advance their extreme anti-abortion political agenda.”
The inspector general of Texas’ Health and Human Services Commission and the state’s office of attorney general have been investigating Planned Parenthood in the wake of the videos, which Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Monday would continue.
“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 videos, which were released beginning last summer, led Republicans in Congress to try to defund the organization, which receives hundreds of millions in federal dollars each year.