Two anti-abortion activists behind secret videos on fetal tissue procurement by Planned Parenthood were charged with tampering with government records by a Texas grand jury on Monday.
The grand jury was originally called to investigate the women’s health group but cleared it of any wrong-doing after reviewing the case for more than two months.
Planned Parenthood had come under fire by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, who accused it of the “gruesome harvesting of baby body parts.”
Abbott launched a probe into the group after videos secretly recorded and released last summer by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) purported to show Planned Parenthood selling fetal tissue for profit, which the group vehemently denied.
The videos spurred Texas and other Republican-controlled states to work on halting funding for local branches of the organization. Republicans in the U.S. Congress also pushed for a funding cut.
Planned Parenthood said the video was doctored and the fees that were being discussed were to cover costs and were legal.
The grand jury found CMP’s claim was unfounded, and indicted David Daleiden, 27, and Sandra Merritt, 62, for tampering with a government record, a felony charge punishable by up to 20 years in prison if they are convicted.
Daleiden was also charged with buying human organs.
The pair said they posed as officials with a fake biomedical research company to tape Planned Parenthood officials discussing the harvesting of fetal tissue.
“As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us,” Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said. “All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case.”
Daleiden responded to the decision, saying in a statement: “The Center for Medical Progress uses the same undercover techniques that investigative journalists have used for decades in exercising our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press, and follows all applicable laws.
“We respect the processes of the Harris County District Attorney, and note that buying fetal tissue requires a seller as well," the statement continued. "Planned Parenthood still cannot deny the admissions from their leadership about fetal organ sales captured on video for all the world to see.”
Planned Parenthood is a non-profit group that provides reproductive health services.
Some clinics provide abortions, but for more than 30 years, the Hyde Amendment prevents the use of certain federal funds to pay for the procedure unless the pregnancy arises from incest, rape, or to save the life of the mother.