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Panel Clears Planned Parenthood, Charges Its Accusers


Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards at a rally last year to defend the organization from charges it was selling fetal material. (AP)

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards at a rally last year to defend the organization from charges it was selling fetal material. (AP)


A Texas grand jury decided this week to clear the health care organization Planned Parenthood of charges that it sells body parts from aborted fetuses. The decision has angered those who oppose abortion.

A grand jury in Harris County, Texas, refused to file charges against Planned Parenthood. Instead, it filed charges against two people who made a secret video of Planned Parenthood employees. Those responsible for the video said they showed Planned Parenthood employees willing to sell body parts.

Planned Parenthood and their supporters have said the video showed no illegal or unethical behavior.

David Daleiden is one of the two people charged. The 27-year-old is the director of the anti-abortion group, Center for Medical Progress. He was charged with damaging a government record, because he allegedly created a fake driver’s license. He was also charged with illegally purchasing human organs. In the video, Daleiden posed as a medical research employee interested in buying fetal tissue.

Another Center for Medical Progress employee, Sandra Merritt, was also charged with damaging a government record.

The grand jury’s decision came after months of emotional debate, followed by the group’s release of its secret videotapes last summer.

Republicans in Congress have tried to end all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, but have failed. Republican presidential candidates promise to end funding for Planned Parenthood if they are elected.

After the secret videos were released to the public, Planned Parenthood apologized for the casual way in which an employee discussed the transfer of fetal tissue and body parts.

But the organization said the discussion centered on fees to cover Planned Parenthood costs, not profits. And it said the employee believed she was discussing a transfer with a real medical research company.

Planned Parenthood said the grand jury’s decision showed the charges against it were false.

“These anti-abortion extremists spent three years creating a fake company, creating fake identities, lying, and breaking the law,” said Eric Ferrero, a Planned Parenthood vice president. “When they couldn’t find any improper or illegal activity, they made it up.”

Daleiden, the director of the Center for Medical Progress, defended his actions.

“The Center for Medical Progress uses the same undercover techniques that investigative journalists have used for decades in exercising our First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and the press, and follows all applicable laws,” he said.

Melissa Hamilton is a legal scholar at the University of Texas. She explains the reasons for the charges both Daleiden and Merrit face.

“If you are purporting to use a driver’s license, which is a public record, that is beyond the pale -- because there are reasons for society to want to protect the legitimacy of purported government records.”

Supporters and opponents of abortion rights had different reactions to the grand jury’s decision.

Greg Abbot is the Governor of Texas, and a Republican who opposes abortion.

He said, “Nothing about today’s announcement in Harris County impacts the state’s ongoing investigation. The State of Texas will continue to protect life, and I will continue to support legislation prohibiting the sale or transfer of fetal tissue.”

But Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said the decision shows that Republican attacks on Planned Parenthood are wrong.

“The Texas grand jury decision undercuts the entire Republican attack on Planned Parenthood,” Sanders said. “Planned Parenthood is doing an excellent job and should be supported and expanded, not defunded.”

I'm Kathleen Struck.

Greg Flakus reported on this story from Houston, Texas. Bruce Alpert adapted this story for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

abortion – n. a medical procedure used to end a pregnancy

unethical – adj. morally bad

posev. to pretend to be (someone or something) in order to deceive people

casualadj. done without much thought, effort, or concern

journalistn. a person who writes for newspapers or magazines or prepares news to be broadcast on radio or television.

purportv. to claim to be or do a particular thing when this claim may not be true

pale – (n). an area or the limits within which one is protected

prohibitv. to order people not to use or do something

transferv. to move something from one place to another

undercutv. to show a position or point of view is not correct

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