A grand jury in Texas has cleared a Planned Parenthood clinic of criminal wrongdoing for allegations it illegally sold fetal tissue, a Houston area prosecutor announced Monday.
The jury instead indicted two people whose covert recordings in April 2015 led to the accusations that the clinic sold tissue for profit, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson announced.
The videos from anti-abortion group the Center for Medical Progress sparked a partisan national debate over Planned Parenthood, including comments from presidential candidates and the formation of a House select committee to investigate.
The grand jury deliberated for more than two months before indicting David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record, Anderson said. Daleiden also faces a misdemeanor charge of violating a prohibition on the purchase and sale of human organs. Anderson didn't disclose what governmental record was involved.
“We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast,” Anderson said in a written statement. “As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us. All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement after the indictments Monday that the state’s investigation of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast Inc. continues.
“The fact remains that the videos exposed the horrific nature of abortion and the shameful disregard for human life of the abortion industry,” Paxton said.
The issue has become partisan on Capitol Hill. Last week, the six Democrats serving on a select panel investigating Planned Parenthood accused their Republican counterparts of issuing document requests that “pose grave privacy and security concerns.”
Republicans formed the select committee, which falls under the jurisdiction of Energy and Commerce, to investigate whether Planned Parenthood illegally sold fetal tissue. Democrats have argued the investigation is unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer dollars because three standing congressional committees have found no evidence of wrongdoing and that the undercover videos that sparked the investigations were manipulated.
That sentiment was echoed Monday by Vicki Saporta, president and chief executive officer of the National Abortion Federation.
“As we’ve known all along, David Daleiden is the one who broke the law, not abortion providers,” Saporta said. “In order to launch his smear campaign, Daleiden engaged in a long-running illegal conspiracy and he should be held accountable for his actions, which have put abortion providers at risk.”
Planned Parenthood's California affiliates are suing the leaders and associates of the Center for Medical Progress in San Francisco for violating the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (PL 91-452), engaging in wire and mail fraud, invasion of privacy, breach of contract and confidentially agreements, engaging in illegal secret recordings and trespassing.
President Barack Obama vetoed legislation (HR 3762) in early January attempting to cut Planned Parenthood's funding.