News and Music Discovery
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Grand Jury Indicts Anti-Abortion Activists Behind Planned Parenthood Videos


In a stunning turnabout, a Houston grand jury has cleared a Planned Parenthood clinic of allegations that it illegally trafficked in fetal tissue. Instead, the panel indicted the two anti-abortion activists who made the videos released last summer that prompted the investigation of the family planning clinic. NPR's Wade Goodwyn has been following the case and joins us now. And Wade, this is a surprising turn of events, right? I mean, what's known so far?

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: So the grand jury's investigation originally came about as a result of these anti-abortion activist videos which tried to give the impression that Planned Parenthood officials were trafficking in fetal tissue. The Republican leadership in Texas, including Governor Greg Abbott, responded to David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt's videos by calling for the immediate investigation of the Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast facility, which was the clinic that was depicted in those videos. And so for the last two months, that's what the Harris County grand jury's been doing in Houston - investigation that Planned Parenthood facility.

And today, the panel cleared it of wrongdoing and instead indicted the anti-abortion activists that made the videos, and that's turned this investigation on its head. The Harris County district attorney explained today that the grand jury simply followed the evidence in the case where it lead them and that he approved of their work.

CORNISH: Now, this indictment charges the two activists with tampering with a government record, which is a felony.

GOODWYN: Yeah, that's right. And David Daleiden, who created the Center for Medical Progress, which is the company that shot the undercover videos, is also indicted on charges related to the attempted purchase of human organs.

CORNISH: Now, what could be the political ramifications in Texas of the grand jury's action today?

GOODWYN: Well, this is a blow for the anti-abortion movement in that here was a grand jury in panel to investigate Planned Parenthood and instead exonerated Planned Parenthood and faulted its accusers. This result tends to support Planned Parenthood's claim that these videos were really just an edited pack of lies created for the purpose of inventing a justification for political retaliation. Now, of course, the charges have not been heard in court of law, but the very fact that they've been filed is a big change of momentum.

CORNISH: What about other places around the country, anywhere else where there could be other legal actions connected to these videos about Planned Parenthood?

GOODWYN: Yes, well, there have already been investigations in 11 states thus far as to whether Planned Parenthood illegally trafficked in fetal tissue, and so far, every investigation has included, they'd done nothing illegal. Planned Parenthood, however, did file a lawsuit earlier this month accusing David Daleiden and several other anti-abortion activists of conspiring to block women's access to an abortion, and that lawsuit's going to be heard in federal court.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Wade Goodwyn. Wade, thanks so much.

GOODWYN: It's my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Wade Goodwyn is an NPR National Desk Correspondent covering Texas and the surrounding states.