Two anti-abortion activists, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, were charged by California prosecutors after making undercover videos trying to purchase fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood locations. In total, they are being charged with 15 felonies related to the invasion of privacy of a medical provider based on filming inside the locations without consent.
Daleiden and Merritt, both members of the Center for Medical Progress, faced similar charges in Texas, though those were ultimately dropped eight months ago.
The State Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, assumed control over the investigation in January, and stated, “The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in free democratic society,” continuing with, “We will not tolerate the criminal recording of conversations.”
The 15 felony charges are based on the 14 people who were filmed by Daleiden, of Davis, California, and Merritt, of San Jose, California, without permission, resulting in one felony charge per person filmed, and an additional charge for criminal conspiracy to invade privacy. The films were created between October 2013 and July 2015 in El Dorado, Los Angeles, and San Francisco counties.
Daleiden suggested the charges were bogus and that they are coming from “Planned Parenthood’s political cronies,” through and email sent to The Associated Press.
“The public knows the real criminals are Planned Parenthood and their business partners,” Daleiden went on to say.
One video related to the case shows Daleiden, posing as “Robert Sarkis,” a representative of the non-existent Biomax Procurement Services, discussing liver tissue with the chief executive of StemExpress, an organization that has done business with Planned Parenthood.
While abortion opponents state the videos show Planned Parenthood has illegally harvested and sold organs, Planned Parenthood asserts that the recordings are highly edited to support extremists’ claims, which are ultimately false.
The interim vice president of communications for Planned Parenthood, Mary Alice Carter, released the following statement, “As we have said from the beginning, and as more than a dozen different state investigations have made clear: Planned Parenthood has done nothing wrong, and the only people who broke the law are those behind the fraudulent tapes.”
In April 2016, Daleiden posted on Facebook stating that his home was raided by agents from the California Department of Justice who seized his video footage as well as certain personal information. After that revelation, the case appeared to go quiet until charges were filed in San Francisco Superior Court on Tuesday.
The videos, released in 2015, helped reignited the abortion debate in the U.S., a debate which continues today and is reflected by efforts in Congress focused on defunding Planned Parenthood. The organization receives approximately $500 million annually in the form of federal government funds to provide services like medical checkups, birth control services, and cancer screenings. Federal funds cannot be used to fund abortions by law.