CA Attorney General files criminal charges against anti-abortion activists
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed criminal charges against two anti-abortion activists who secretly recorded private conversations with Planned Parenthood officials about fetal tissue donations.
David Robert Daleiden and Sandra Merritt were charged in March with 15 counts, including criminal invasion of privacy and conspiracy.
Read more: Terrorist attacks Planned Parenthood clinic
“The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society,” said Becerra. “We will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations.”
Daleiden and Merritt used fraudulent identities, including fake California drivers’ licenses, to register a “phony” corporation, BioMax. From July 2014 to September 2015, Daleiden and Merritt posed as biomedical executives and secretly recorded conversations with Planned Parenthood and other biomedical research providers in Los Angeles and El Dorado, California.
“Several of the secretly filmed video segments were edited and subsequently released for public viewing via [Center for Medical Progress’s] website in July 2015. Immediately afterward, several of the health care providers, who had been named and identified in the edited videos, began receiving personal death threats,” according to court documents.
The videos were edited to suggest that Planned Parenthood officials were trying to profit from fetal tissue donations, which is illegal. However, clinics like Planned Parenthood are allowed to accept reimbursements for “reasonable expenses” for fetal tissue donations, which has been used to develop vaccines for polio, chicken pox, rabies, Hepatitis A, rubella, shingles, and other diseases.
In response to the edited videos, Republicans in Congress mounted several attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, putting at risk access to health care for 2.7 million Americans, the majority of whom live in low-income or rural areas.
Read more: Planned Parenthood sues anti-abortion group
Six months after the edited videos were released, Planned Parenthood sued Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress for fraud, invasion of privacy, breach of contract, and trespassing.
Although authorities did not uncover any wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, the organization announced in October 2016 that it will no longer accept reimbursements for fetal tissue donation to “take away any basis for attacking Planned Parenthood to advance an anti-abortion political agenda”.