Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, right, applauds introduces Clinton during a campaign rally at Burford Garner Elementary School, on Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in North Liberty, Iowa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, right, applauds introduces Clinton during a campaign rally at Burford Garner Elementary School, on Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in North Liberty, Iowa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Two anti-abortion activists accused of using fake licenses

AUSTIN, Texas — Two anti-abortion activists who made undercover videos about Planned Parenthood are accused of using fake driver’s licenses to infiltrate the group, indictments made public Tuesday show.

David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt allegedly used California driver’s licenses they knew were false “with the intent to defraud and harm another,” the documents indicate.

The videos that surfaced last year accused Planned Parenthood of illegally selling fetal tissue to researchers for profit. The footage provoked outrage among Republican leaders nationwide and prompted investigations by Republican-led committees in Congress and by GOP-led state governments.

Planned Parenthood officials said the videos were misleading. And the Houston grand jury that indicted the activists also investigated Planned Parenthood and concluded that the nation’s largest abortion provider committed no wrongdoing.

Both of the activists face a charge of tampering with a governmental record, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Daleiden was also indicted on a misdemeanor count related to purchasing human organs. The indictment on that count was not immediately available Tuesday.

The footage showed people pretending to be from a company called BioMax that procures fetal tissue for research. Planned Parenthood has said that the fake company sent an agreement offering to pay the “astronomical amount” of $1,600 for organs from a fetus. The Houston Planned Parenthood clinic said it never entered into the agreement and ceased contact with BioMax because it was “disturbed” by the overtures.

“As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us,” said Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, an elected Republican.

Daleiden issued a statement saying his group “uses the same undercover techniques” as investigative journalists 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,” he said.

Planned Parenthood has said a few clinics in two states used to accept legally allowed reimbursement for the costs of providing tissue donated by some of its abortion clients. In October, Planned Parenthood announced that it would no longer accept reimbursement and would cover the costs itself.

The group called Monday’s indictments the latest in a string of victories since the videos were released, saying 11 state investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood of claims that it profited from fetal tissue donation.

“This is absolutely great news because it is a demonstration of what Planned Parenthood has said from the very beginning: We follow every law and regulation, and these anti-abortion activists broke multiple laws to try and spread lies,” said spokeswoman Rochelle Tafolla of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.

The Texas video was the fifth released by the Center for Medical Progress, which Daleiden founded.

Despite the center’s lofty name, public filings suggest only a small number of people are affiliated with the nonprofit, none of whom are scientists or physicians engaged in advancing medical treatments. The people named as its top officers are longtime anti-abortion activists with a history of generating headlines.

Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood sued the center in a California federal court, alleging extensive criminal misconduct. The lawsuit says the center’s videos were the result of numerous illegalities, including making recordings without consent, registering false identities with state agencies and violating nondisclosure agreements.

After the lawsuit was filed, Daleiden told The Associated Press he looked forward to confronting Planned Parenthood in court.

___

Associated Press writers Juan A. Lozano in Houston, Will Weissert in Austin and David Crary in New York contributed to this report.

___

Follow Paul J. Weber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pauljweber .

More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of April 15

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Monday, April 15, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Juneau’s Recycling Center and Household Hazardous Waste Facility at 5600 Tonsgurd Court. (City and Borough of Juneau photo)
Recycleworks stops accepting dropoffs temporarily due to equipment failure

Manager of city facility hopes operations can resume by early next week

People staying at the city’s cold weather emergency shelter during its final night of operation board a bus bound for the Glory Hall and other locations in town early Tuesday morning. In the background are tour buses that a company says were broken into and damaged during the winter by people staying at the shelter, and one of the first cruise ships of the season. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Juneau’s homeless head outdoors with no official place to camp as warming shelter closes for season

“Everybody’s frantic. They’re probably all going to be sleeping on the streets by the stores again.”

The Anchorage band Big Chimney Barn Dance performs in the main ballroom of Centennial Hall on Sunday night near the end of the 49th Annual Alaska Folk Festival. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
49th annual Alaska Folk Festival ends with promise of an ‘epic’ 50th

Weeklong event remains free after nearly a half-century “which is unheard of,” board president says.

Students leave the Marie Drake Building, which houses local alternative education offerings including the HomeBRIDGE correspondence program, on April 4. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Educators and lawmakers trying to determine impacts, next steps of ruling denying state funds for homeschoolers

“Everybody wants to make sure there’s a way to continue supporting homeschool families,” Kiehl says.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Sunday, April 14, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

TJ Beers holds a sign to advocate for the rights of people experiencing homelessness outside the state Capitol on April 9. Beers was homeless for four years and in three states. “I don’t know how I survived,” he said. (Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon)
Lawmakers weigh whether to reduce or acknowledge rights of growing Alaska homeless population

As cities try to house people, Dunleavy’s protest bill would further criminalize them, advocates say.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Saturday, April 13, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read