Republican on the defensive after Texas grand jury investigating Planned Parenthood decided to indict anti-abortion activists who prompted the inquiry
Republican presidential nominee Marco Rubio sought to raise questions on Tuesday about the indictment of two anti-abortion activists by drawing a dubious connection between a is part of the public prosecutor office and Planned Parenthood.
I think its fairly outrageous that Planned Parenthood was investigated by some lawyer or district attorney who apparently, according to some news reports, have in fact been a board member of Planned Parenthood and donated to them, Rubio told, responding to a voter question about abortion at an Iowa town hall.
They investigated Planned Parenthood and they said: We determined they did nothing incorrect, he added. But were going to indict the people who filmed them talking about these things. Thats outrageous.
Rubios remarks referred to a Texas grand jury that concluded its investigation of Planned Parenthood by indicting not the womens healthcare provider, but two of the anti-abortion activists who prompted the criminal investigation. The activists, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, use false identities to movie secret videos that accused Planned Parenthood employees of selling fetal tissue in violation of the law. Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast was cleared of any wrongdoing.
The indictments, which the Harris County district attorney announced Monday, set abortion foes like Rubio on the defensive after months of touting the videos in fightings over Planned Parenthoods government funding. But Planned Parenthood was quick to point out on Tuesday that the district attorney in fact has no known connections to their organization.
Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthoods executive vice-president, said that the indictment is a sign political attacks on different groups have largely failed.
I think that is an accurate thing to tell, given the three years of investment they made and the tremendous criminal durations they went to try to harm Planned Parenthood, she said on Tuesday. The breathless reporting for weeks and months around these videotapes rendered an amazing amount of material to refute the charges The Center for Medical Progress has really unravelled.
Rubios attack was likely referring to a Harris County prosecutor in the criminal family statute division, Lauren Reeder. Reeder was a member of the Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast board of directors at the time of the district investigation, a connection that the anti-abortion website LifeNews.com has sought to highlight.
But Reeder was not, as Rubio stated, the district attorney who handed down Mondays indictments , nor was she involved in the broader investigation. According to news reports from the time, Reeder disclosed that she was a Planned Parenthood board member shortly after Harris County began its investigation in August. The district attorney, Devon Anderson, constructed Reeders affiliation public and stated that Reeder would not have any involvement in the investigation.
The investigation was requested by Texass Republican lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick. Anderson was appointed to her office by Republican governor Rick Perry in 2013. She won election as a Republican in 2014.
Josh Schaffer, an attorney who represented Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast in the Harris County investigation, said on Tuesday that it was his understanding the district attorneys office created a firewall around Reeder.
Last summer, a group known as the Center for Medical Progress filmed and released a series of sting videos edited so they appeared to show Planned Parenthood employees selling fetal tissue in violation of federal law.
In Harris County, the videos inspired an investigation into Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast. Anderson convened a grand jury that wrapped up a two-month investigation on Monday when it indicted Daleiden and Merritt for tampering with a governmental record, a charge that carries between two and 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 penalty. Daleiden received a second indictment under a law proscribe the purchase and sale of human organs, which carries possible incarcerate hour and a fine up to $4,000. The indictment stems from an email he sent to Planned Parenthood offering to buy fetal specimens at $1,600 apiece. Planned Parenthood never responded to his email.
Schaffer, the Planned Parenthood lawyer, said the grand jury did not find enough proof to even vote on indictments for Planned Parenthood.
On Capitol Hill, it is not clear if Congress this year will match the intensity of Planned Parenthood investigators in 2015.
As of October, five separate committees had kicked off their own investigations, and several staged heated hearings with Planned Parenthood executives. But commentaries by Paul Ryan, the new Republican speaker of the House, suggest that those committees may take a backseat as he strives to restore regular order. Ryan said in December that efforts to strip Planned Parenthood of its millions in federal funding will remain a top priority in 2016. Yet he has signaled that he is not willing to allow the House to keep with its pattern of voting repeatedly to defund while Obama is in office.
Abortion foes have made as little headway with investigations in the states. Eleven states have concluded inquiries into Planned Parenthoods fetal tissue donation program without find any evidence of wrongdoing: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Washington. Officials in another eight states California, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Virginia have declined to investigate Planned Parenthood, quoting a lack of evidence of illegal activity.
Undeterred, nearly two-dozen Republican governors and statehouses have taken action to relieve Planned Parenthood clinics that offer contraception and STI and cancer screenings of Medicaid and family planning funds.An executive with Americans United for Life, a legal advocacy group that provides model anti-abortion legislation to country lawmakers, told the Guardian Tuesday that the group would continue to push measures to defund abortion providers. So far, North Carolina and New Hampshire permanently cut off monies.
But Planned Parenthood is opposing most other defund efforts in court. And it has repeatedly won temporary injunctions against nations attempting to kick its clinics out of state Medicaid programs.( States are largely prohibited under restriction a womans option of Medicaid provider .)
Some investigations are still ongoing. On Monday, after the Harris County grand jury declined to indict Planned Parenthood, Texas governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, revealed that two country offices are involved in investigating Planned Parenthood: labour inspectors general of the Texas health department, and the state attorney general.( In October, without publicly acknowledging an inquiry, researchers from the health department ordered Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas to turn over thousands of pages of patient records .)
But at least one state, California, is analyse the Center for Medical Progress. In response to calls by Democratic each member of Congress, attorney general Kamala Harris agreed in July to investigate whether the center violated laws when it registered the fake corporation that activists used as their cover.
It was not the first bad outcome Daleiden and his group have faced in court.
In California, an ongoing suit has set the stage for the identities of the key architects and financiers behind the centers sting to become public knowledge. The names of the centers key bankrollers are still a mystery, although Troy Newman, an extreme abortion opponent who are in favour of violence against providers and clinics, has been identified as a cofounder.
That lawsuit stems from video taken at an annual session of the National Abortion Federation in 2014 and 2015. Activists with the Center for Medical Progress posed as members of a biomedical research firm to obtained undercover footage.
NAF sued Daleiden, Newman, the center, and BioMax Procurement Service, the fake company that served as the activists cover, to prevent the release of any video. It also attempted the identities of the activists who infiltrated the two NAF conferences, as well as the identities of anyone who received a report on the NAF sessions that Daleiden and the center circulated.
Court records indicate that the report went out to key donors and designers of the centers undercover activities. In December, over the centers objections that it was protected by the first amendment, US district judge William Orrick ruled that the center must turn over a list of those names and identities. The US supreme court repudiated different groups appeal.
The list remains confidential to NAFs attorneys. But a NAF spokeswoman said Judge Orrick could make the list public, or it could become public as part of a jury trial.
NAF is now asking the court to take action against Daleiden and his group for disclosing video footage of its annual meeting containing confidential information to Congressman Jason Chaffetz. Chaffetz, a Republican, leads the House oversight and government reform committee, one of several committees investigating Planned Parenthood.
In a separate lawsuit, StemExpress, a biotech firm conducting tissue research, won a restraining order against the center in Los Angeles superior court and has vowed to sue the group over invasion of privacy. The firm had ties to Planned Parenthood, and the sting videos caused the companys CEO to receive online death threats. The restraining order avoids the center from releasing any video footage it took of StemExpress employees.
The Thomas More Society, a conservative legal group representing Daleiden in civil suits, did not respond to requests for comment.
Its been telling that while the defendants have been very vocal in the media saying that they have nothing to hide, in all regions of the suit, they have invoked the Fifth Amendment, and not cooperated with court orders to turn over information, Vicki Saporta, the president of NAF, told the Guardian. Thankfully, these efforts to hide their fraud and dodge discovery have not been successful We hope that the grand jury indictment will be a wakeup call and that legislators will want to distance themselves from this indicted offender and his discredited campaign.
Read more: www.theguardian.com