A grand jury in Houston investigating undercover footage of Planned Parenthood allegations of misconduct instead indicted two anti-abortion activists who made videos of the organization on Monday.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said in a statement that the founder of the Center for Medical Progress, David Daleiden, was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanor count related to purchasing human organs.
Another center employee, Sandra Merritt, was also indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record.
In a statement announcing the indictment, Anderson didn’t provide details on the charges, including what record or records were allegedly tampered with and why Daleiden faces a charge related to buying human organs.
Anderson’s office said it could not provide details until the documents charging Daleiden and Merritt were formally made public.
“We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast,” Anderson said. “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 Center for Medical Progress is the anti-abortion group that released covertly shot videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of aborted fetuses for research.
Planned Parenthood officials swiftly hailed the indictment
“These anti-abortion extremists spent three years creating a fake company, creating fake identities, lying, and breaking the law. When they couldn’t find any improper or illegal activity, they made it up,” Eric Ferrero, Vice President of Communications for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.
“As the dust settles and the truth comes out, it’s become totally clear that the only people who engaged in wrongdoing are the criminals behind this fraud, and we’re glad they’re being held accountable,” Ferrero said.
The center has released several secretly recorded videos that have riled anti-abortion activists and has accused Planned Parenthood of selling fetal tissue for profit, which is illegal. Republicans in Congress last summer unsuccessfully called for cutting off funding for the organization.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has called footage from the Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston “repulsive and unconscionable.” It showed people pretending to be from a company that procures fetal tissue for research touring the facility. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also opened his own investigation into the videos.
Abbott said the indictments will not impact the state’s investigation
“The State of Texas will continue to protect life, and I will continue to support legislation prohibiting the sale or transfer of fetal tissue,” he said in a statement.
Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., author of the House-passed Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015 said the she was “profoundly disappointed” in the indictments.
“It is a sad day in America when those who harvest the body parts of aborted babies escape consequences for their actions, while the courageous truth-tellers who expose their misdeeds are handed down a politically motivated indictment instead,” she said.
Planned Parenthood says it abides by a law that allows providers to be reimbursed for the costs of processing tissue donated by women who have had abortions.
The Texas video was the fifth released by the group. Before its release, Melaney Linton, president of the Houston Planned Parenthood clinic, told state lawmakers last summer that it was likely to feature actors — pretending to be from a company called BioMax — asking leading questions about how to select potential donors for a supposed study of sickle cell anemia.
Linton said the footage could feature several interactions initiated by BioMax about how and whether a doctor could adjust an abortion if the patient has offered to donate tissue for medical research. She also said Planned Parenthood believed the video would be manipulated.
Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood sued the center in a California federal court, alleging extensive criminal misconduct. The lawsuit says the center’s videos were the result of numerous illegalities, including making recordings without consent, registering false identities with state agencies and violating non-disclosure agreements.
After the lawsuit was filed, Daleiden told The Associated Press that he looked forward to confronting Planned Parenthood in court.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.