‘WE MUST go where the evidence leads us.” So explained a Texas district attorney about why an investigation into alleged misconduct by Planned Parenthood ended instead with charges against Planned Parenthood’s accusers. By adhering to the facts, prosecutors and grand jurors set a model of behavior that puts them at odds with the politicians — in Congress, in statehouses and on the Republican presidential campaign trail — who have tried to advance their agendas by falsely demonizing an organization that provides critical health care to women. In their evidence-free crusade, they have put vital health services at risk and wasted millions of taxpayer dollars.
A Houston grand jury on Monday returned indictments against two antiabortion activists involved in producing the explosive “sting” videos that purported to show Planned Parenthood personnel selling aborted fetal organs for profit. That the damaging but long-discredited videos showed nothing of the kind was underscored by Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson’s statement that the grand jury had cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing. Instead, the head of the Center for Medical Progress and another employee were charged with felony counts of tampering with a government record, presenting fake driver’s licenses with intent to harm or defraud. Center head David R. Daleiden was also charged with a misdemeanor count related to offering to buy human tissue.
The judicial process will determine the validity of the charges against these two people. What we already know is that the investigation was, in Ms. Anderson’s words, “lengthy and thorough”; that it was conducted by a respected Republican prosecutor; and that it was launched at the behest of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), a fierce opponent of abortion and of Planned Parenthood. In clearing Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing, Harris County officials joined officials in 12 states (including Kansas, Florida, Ohio and Georgia) who concluded investigations into claims Planned Parenthood illegally profited from fetal tissue donation by absolving it of misconduct. An additional eight states declined even to investigate, citing a lack of any evidence of wrongdoing. The fact is Planned Parenthood does not sell fetal tissue for profit and never has.
Unfortunately, none of that has kept congressional Republicans from seeking to defund Planned Parenthood, nor hostile state governments from trying to block access to care at Planned Parenthood clinics. And don’t hold your breath waiting for an apology from Carly Fiorina or other Republican presidential candidates who have demagogued the issue. Even in the face of this finding of no wrongdoing by a group of citizens relying on evidence, logic and common sense, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) insisted the state would continue its own investigation of Planned Parenthood. After all, how important are the facts when there is self-interest to be served and a political point to be made?