Monday was a huge win for Planned Parenthood and for reproductive freedom. We finally saw justice when David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt – heads of the Center for Medical Progress and orchestrators of the undercover and heavily edited videos recorded at Planned Parenthood locations across the country – were indicted by a Houston grand jury while the health care provider was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing. The indictment was the exact opposite of what Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wanted when they ordered the Houston DA to open up the investigation in July, making it quite the glorious plot twist in this ongoing sting operation.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 25, 2016
Anti-choice lawmakers and organizations quickly denounced the outcome and reenergized their usual victim narrative, so much so that “pro-life” Houston DA Devon Anderson, who was endorsed by Texas Right to Life in 2014 and was in charge of the investigation into Planned Parenthood, went on camera on Thursday to explain how the justice system works for all of the grown adults in charge who can’t seem to understand (via KHOU):
“The inconvenient truth of a criminal investigation is that it doesn’t always lead where you wanna go. Anyone who pays attention knows that I’m pro-life. I believe abortion is wrong. But my personal belief does not relieve me of my obligation to follow the law.”
-Harris County DA Devon Anderson
Gov. Abbott even went on to say in an interview with WFAA that “the grand jury made no decision whatsoever about what Planned Parenthood did”, even though, if you’re following along, the grand jury did in fact make a decision about what Planned Parenthood did not do. Meanwhile, defense lawyers for Daleiden and Merritt continue to say that the indictments were given by a “runaway grand jury”, and that sneaking into a Planned Parenthood facility with fake IDs and hidden cameras somehow makes their clients journalists, granting them protection under the 1st Amendment.
The tantrums are expected. These folks have spent years building a system that’s designed to work in their favor – one where every time the anti-choice contingent in Texas wants the state government to do something for them, all they have to do is ask. So when someone actually does their job and serves justice where it’s due, anti-choicers will naturally default to their old tactic of ignoring reality and continuing the made-up fervor. What else do you do when your movement isn’t based in science or fact?
As Andrea Grimes put it in the Texas Observer, scoring an indictment against Planned Parenthood “was never really the point” for these people:
“The point was the noise. The froth. The media circus. The reporters who jump to be the first to catch images of state agents raiding clinics.
The truth is an afterthought.”
While we should count this indictment as a moment of vindication, it’s important to keep in mind that there are still two other investigations into Planned Parenthood happening in Texas, one of which is being conducted by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, the same Senate in which Dan Patrick presides.
In all likelihood the Legislature won’t find that Planned Parenthood did anything wrong, and the lawmakers in charge probably expect that, but they’ve already cut the organization from the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screenings program as well as from the HIV Prevention Program in the last year alone because some Planned Parenthood locations also provide abortion services.
This smear campaign isn’t over yet, and its motives remain clear: continue to vilify reproductive health care providers, increase abortion stigma and put barriers between people and the health care they need in the process.