Activists behind secret anti-abortion Planned Parenthood recordings charged with 15 felonies

California 'will not tolerate the criminal recording of conversations.'

Apr 18, 2017, 3:39 pm*

IRL

Samantha Grasso 

Samantha Grasso

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Illustration by Max Fleishman

Two anti-abortion activists behind the heavily-edited secret video recording of a Planned Parenthood senior director released in July 2015 now face 15 new felony charges.

According to the Associated Press, California prosecutors have charged David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt for allegedly invading the privacy of medical providers by filming them without their consent. The charges come eight months after similar charges against them in Texas were dropped.

Prosecutors say Daleiden, founder of the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress, and fellow activist Merritt filmed 14 people without their consent between October 2013 and July 2015 in the state, with a felony filed for each person. The 15th charge is for criminal conspiracy to invade privacy.

Included in those recordings made by the anti-abortion activists are conversations with officials from Planned Parenthood and StemExpress, a company that provides blood and tissue for medical research, and that had received fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood.

In July 2015, Daleiden and Merritt published video of themselves posing as reps for a fetal tissue collection center while having a conversation about fetal tissue donations with Planned Parenthood senior director of medical research Deborah Nucatola.

An external investigation executed by the healthcare clinic found the videos were “blatantly manipulated,” and “do not present a complete or accurate record of the events they purport to depict.” California authorities raided Daleiden’s home in April 2016 for the video footage.

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement that the state, “will not tolerate the criminal recording of conversations,” while Daleiden told the Associated Press that the charges are “bogus” and from “Planned Parenthood’s political cronies.”

Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, said in a statement that they commend California’s thorough investigation into the anti-abortion activists.

“As we’ve known all along, David Daleiden and his co-conspirators are the ones who broke the law, not abortion providers. In order to launch their smear campaign, Daleiden and Merritt engaged in a long-running illegal conspiracy,” Saporta said. “They should be held accountable for their actions, which have put abortion providers and others at risk.”

H/T Jezebel

Update March 29, 1pm CT: On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a district court’s order granting the National Abortion Federation a preliminary injunction to stop Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress from releasing recordings and materials obtained from the organization’s meetings.

According to the federation, Daleiden and anti-abortion activist Troy Newman illegally obtained recordings and materials by posing as reps for a fetal tissue collection center to therefore gain access to NAF’s annual meetings and facilities that provide abortions.

“Given the district court’s finding, which is supported by substantial evidence, that the tapes contain no evidence of criminal activity, and its recognition of several states’ ongoing ‘formal efforts to secure the NAF recordings,’ the preliminary injunction carefully balances the interests of NAF and law enforcement. We therefore decline the request…to modify the injunction,” the court ruling states.

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*First Published: Mar 29, 2017, 8:51 am