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Texas grand jury indicts two anti-abortion activists, clears Planned Parenthood in misconduct probe

"Extremists broke laws to spread lies about PP to advance anti-abortion agenda," Planned Parenthood said in response to the indictment Monday.

By Doug G. Ware
A Texas grand jury on Monday indicted two anti-abortion activists involved in a series of "undercover" videos against Planned Parenthood on tampering charges. The grand jury investigation was initiated by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last year to look into allegations of misconduct by the organization. Photo by Roger L. Wollenberg/UPI
A Texas grand jury on Monday indicted two anti-abortion activists involved in a series of "undercover" videos against Planned Parenthood on tampering charges. The grand jury investigation was initiated by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last year to look into allegations of misconduct by the organization. Photo by Roger L. Wollenberg/UPI | License Photo

HOUSTON, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Two anti-abortion activists involved with a series of "undercover" videos released last year that purported to show personnel at Planned Parenthood discussing the sale of fetal tissue were indicted by a Texas grand jury on Monday on charges of tampering.

The activists, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, were charged by the grand jury with tampering with a governmental record. Daleiden was also charged with prohibition of the purchase and sale of human organs.

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"We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast," Harris County (Texas) District Attorney Devon Anderson said. "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."

Planned Parenthood has said Daleiden secretly video-recorded personnel and patients more than 50 times in the last eight years. He is the director of the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress, which reportedly produced the videos.

The organization, which provides family planning services and receives millions in federal funding, has repeatedly denied that it sells tissue from aborted fetuses and has said the "undercover" videos were heavily edited to misrepresent what appears in the footage.

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In September, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards flatly denied the implications of the videos during a congressional inquiry and announced the following month that the organization would no longer receive financial "reimbursements" in exchange for fetal tissue -- a practice Richards said had accounted for a small fraction of the group's business, anyway.

Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., testifies during a House Oversight Committee Hearing on taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on September 29, 2015. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Planned Parenthood has also accused activists of using bad practices to obtain the videos, such as obtaining fake government-issued IDs.

The videos prompted Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a vocal pro-life opponent, to initiate an investigation to look into possible misconduct by Planned Parenthood. Instead, it resulted in the activists' indictments Monday and cleared the local branch, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, of any wrongdoing.

"PPGulfCoast cleared of wrongdoing & two extremists behind fraudulent smear videos indicted on felony charges in TX," the organization tweeted Monday. "Extremists broke laws to spread lies about PP to advance anti-abortion agenda."

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However, it appears Monday's results may not dissuade the governor's office from continuing to investigate Planned Parenthood.

"Nothing about today's announcement in Harris County impacts the state's ongoing investigation," Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement Monday. "The State of Texas will continue to protect life, and I will continue to support legislation prohibiting the sale or transfer of fetal tissue."

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