One after the other, investigations of Planned Parenthood prompted by hidden-camera videos released last summer have found no evidence of wrongdoing. On Monday, a grand jury in Harris County, Texas, went a step further. Though it was convened to investigate Planned Parenthood, it indicted two members of the group that made the videos instead.
The Harris County prosecutor, Devon Anderson, a Republican who was asked by the lieutenant governor, a strident opponent of Planned Parenthood, to open the criminal investigation, said Monday that the grand jurors had cleared Planned Parenthood of any misconduct.
Yet despite all the evidence, Texas' Republican governor, Greg Abbott, said Monday that the state attorney general's office and the State Health and Human Services Commission would continue investigating Planned Parenthood. This is a purely political campaign of intimidation and persecution meant to destroy an organization whose mission to serve women's health care needs the governor abhors.
Fortunately, in the Harris County case, the jurors considered the facts. David Daleiden, the director of the Center for Medical Progress, which released the videos, and Sandra Merritt, an employee, were indicted on felony charges of tampering with governmental records, probably connected to their alleged use of fake driver's licenses to get into a Planned Parenthood office.
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Daleiden was also indicted on a misdemeanor charge of violating a Texas ban on the buying and selling of human organs.
A lawyer for Planned Parenthood said Daleiden sent an email to Planned Parenthood employees last June offering to buy fetal tissue for $1,600 per sample, to which Planned Parenthood never responded. A lawyer for Daleiden said Tuesday that his client planned to plead not guilty and would vigorously defend against the charges.
Neither the videos nor the many investigations that followed have found any evidence that Planned Parenthood employees offered to sell fetal tissue for a profit. Texas is the 12th state in which investigations stemming from the videos have found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. In October, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, admitted that the committee's investigation of Planned Parenthood had found no evidence of misconduct.
Nonetheless, the videos have already had a destructive effect. Texas and several other states have moved to defund Planned Parenthood; a bill to deny money to the group in Ohio is before the state Senate this week. A bill that would pull federal money from Planned Parenthood has reached the president, who is sure to veto it.
These efforts threaten to deprive the country's poorest women of health services they need, including cancer screenings, contraceptive care and sexually transmitted infection testing. In many parts of the country, Planned Parenthood is the only source of contraceptive services for low-income women.
Several Republican presidential candidates continue to treat the falsehoods presented by the Center for Medical Progress as fact. In response to Monday's indictments, Carly Fiorina, for one, said, "Planned Parenthood has been trafficking in body parts," a claim she has made repeatedly on the campaign trail.
The indictments should cause politicians to back away from an anti-abortion group that will stop at nothing to attack Planned Parenthood. Gov. John Kasich of Ohio is running for president on a platform of good governance and common sense.
The campaign against Planned Parenthood is anathema to these principles, and if a bill to defund the organization reaches his desk, he should veto it.
If convicted, Daleiden and Merritt face up to 20 years in prison on the felony charge; the misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year. These penalties will not undo the damage the videos have already done to Planned Parenthood and women's health and reproductive rights. State and federal officials who care about the truth should work to remedy that damage in any way they can.