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Melaney Linton

Grand jury indicts Planned Parenthood video fraudsters


Right there with them

Right there with them

A Harris County grand jury investigating allegations that a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston illegally sold the tissue of aborted fetuses has cleared the organization of wrongdoing and instead indicted two anti-abortion activists behind the undercover videos that sparked the probe.

Secret videographers David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt were both indicted on charges of tampering with a governmental record, a second-degree felony that carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison. Daleiden received an additional misdemeanor indictment under the law prohibiting the purchase and sale of human organs.

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson announced the surprising indictments Monday after a two-month investigation.

“We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast,” said Anderson, a Republican. “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.”

The probe began after the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group run by Daleiden, released footage of the Houston clinic as part of a series of videos showing Planned Parenthood officials casually discussing the methods and costs of preserving fetal tissue for scientific research. That prompted allegations that the organization was profiting off of tissue — an allegation that was never proven — and sparked calls for an investigation from Gov. Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton and others.


A spokeswoman for the Houston branch of Planned Parenthood said the news made the organization feel “vindicated.”

“It’s great news because it demonstrates what we have said from the very beginning, which is that Planned Parenthood is following every rule and regulation, and that these people came into our buildings under the guise of health when their true intentions were to spread lies,” said the spokeswoman, Rochelle Tafolla. “We’re glad that these extremists have been indicted for breaking the law.”

See here for the background. The irony in this is so thick one might choke on it. Greg Abbott made a feeble statement noting that the state was still investigating Planned Parenthood to find some pretext for justifying its decision to completely boot it off Medicaid, but that’s all been a load of hot air. The national office of Planned Parenthood has filed a federal lawsuit against these CMP idiots and their fraudulent shenanigans, and a separate federal lawsuit against the state of Texas for acting on their lies. I’m thinking both of those cases just got a solid boost. A statement from Sen. Sylvia Garcia on the indictments is here – it sure would be nice to hear from the idiot Texas Monthly columnist who fell for the CMP video hook, line, and sinker as well – and TPM, the Trib, Daily Kos, Think Progress, Trail Blazers, the Current, Juanita, Newsdesk, and the Press have more.

Remember how concern for women’s health was supposed to be a thing?

Now that the omnibus anti-abortion bill has been passed and signed, the Republicans can quit pretending to care about the state of health care access for women in Texas as before.

Right there with them

Right there with them

Three Planned Parenthood family planning clinics in Southeast Texas announced plans Thursday to close at the end of August. The closures result from reduced family planning funds and the removal of Planned Parenthood from the state Women’s Health Program, said Melaney Linton, CEO of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.

While the closures were announced the same day as Gov. Rick Perry’s signing of omnibus abortion legislation, House Bill 2, the closures are “a completely separate issue” from that new law, Linton said.

Linton said many patients who visit the three clinics cannot afford to pay for services and therefore would “go without the care they need.” She said the decision by the state not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act was “the final straw” that rendered the clinics unable to serve patients.

“This has been a long time coming,” she said.

But John Seago, legislative director for Texas Right to Life, said he believes women in that region will still have access to health programs, noting the recent legislative move to restore funds to participants in the Women’s Health Program.

In the 2013 session, the Legislature voted to add $71 million to the program.

“The Legislature has more than restored the funding that was effective last session,” Seago said.

It’s certainly good that the Legislature restored funding for the WHP after it was decimated in 2011, but the damage has already been done. Some sixty clinics closed their doors statewide after the 2011 budget cuts. and the number of clinics funded by the Texas Department of State Health Services dropped from 300 to 136 in the year following those cuts. If you burn my house down, then build me another two years later, you can claim you’ve made me whole but I was still homeless in the interim. Even if you could credibly claim that there are now as many clinics that provide health care and family planning services for women as there were in 2011 – I have no idea if this is true, and neither does John Seago; what’s more, I’m sure he doesn’t care – the fact remains that hundreds of thousands of Texas women had their health care disrupted. Even if every single one of these women now has a clinic that’s as close to them and as convenient for them and as affordable for them that they’re aware of and comfortable visiting, it still wasn’t their choice to make that change. It was done to them by Rick Perry, David Dewhurst, Greg Abbott, and the Republican friends of people like John Seago in the Texas Legislature. What was done can be ameliorated but it can never be undone. PDiddie has more.