Planned Parenthood cleared of false charges

By ANN MONTAGUE

Jan. 22 marked the 43rd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which ruled that abortion is a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution. Rallies in cities around the country reflected the fact that the right to abortion continues to be under attack through state restrictions, continual anti-abortion rhetoric, and specific attacks on Planned Parenthood.

This past year, those attacks included not only continual harassment of Planned Parenthood clinics but a gunman entering the clinic in Colorado Springs, Col., and killing three and wounding nine people. In addition, in July, an anti-abortion organization, Center for Medical Progress (CMP), made allegations that a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston had attempted to illegally profit from selling fetal tissue. This resulted in cries from politicians to defund Planned Parenthood.

In a surprising turn of events, three days after the nationwide rallies to support Roe v. Wade, a grand jury in Harris County, Texas, cleared the Houston Planned Parenthood clinic of all the charges. Moreover, it indicted the top leaders of the CMP organization who had prompted the investigation in the first place.

CMP founder David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt were both charged with using fake driver’s licenses, and Daleiden was charged with violating the Texas law prohibiting the purchase and sale of human organs, the same law that he accused Planned Parenthood of breaking. He had sent an e-mail to Planned Parenthood seeking to buy fetal tissue.

Planned Parenthood and their Houston lawyer Josh Schaffer used an unconventional strategy. Instead of taking on a defensive posture, they cooperated fully with the investigators. They volunteered documents, encouraged prosecutors to interview employees, and gave them free rein of their facility.

Texas officials had demanded a criminal investigation after the anti-abortion activists had posted videos on line that they claimed showed clinic employees discussing the sale of aborted fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood initiated an outside study, which resulted in discovering the videos were deceptively edited.

The Planned Parenthood statement about the indictments was clear: “These anti-abortion extremists spent three years creating a fake company, creating fake identities, lying, and breaking the law, and when they couldn’t find any improper or illegal activity, they made it up.”

This is an important victory on the long road to protecting a woman’s right to abortion. The next struggle involves the U.S. Supreme Court.

In June the U.S Supreme Court is scheduled to make a decision on Health v. Cole, which according to the Center For Reproductive Rights is designed to shut down more than 75% of all women’s health clinics that provide abortion services in the state of Texas. Roe v. Wade was won because feminists demanded an end to back-alley abortions and the right to safe and legal abortion. We will need a strong, visible movement to fight yet another attempt at chipping away at that right.