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Today in "it couldn't have happened to nicer people," the two anti-choice activists who "infiltrated" Planned Parenthood centers pretending to represent a fictitious biomedical research company have been charged with 15 felonies each.

David Robert Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, members of a previously little-known anti-abortion group called The Center for Medical Progress, secretly recorded conversations with several Planned Parenthood employees attempting to prove that they were "selling" fetal remains to medical research companies. They then creatively edited the videos to prove this point. Though the tapes resulted in investigations in 13 states, no one was able to prove a damn thing other than the fact that Daleiden and Merritt clearly had no idea how organ donation works.

The charges filed by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra are for misrepresenting themselves to Planned Parenthood employees and covertly recording private conversations without permission. They are being charged for each of the 14 people they secretly recorded, in addition to another charge for criminal conspiracy to invade privacy.

The unfortunate thing, of course, is that there's no way to charge them for the deceptive editing practices they used in order to "prove" that Planned Parenthood was illegally selling fetal remains -- because that has certainly caused real damage not only to Planned Parenthood's reputation, but also their ability to operate efficiently. As a result of the tapes, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, announced in October 2015 that they would no longer be accepting reimbursement for fetal tissue donations, despite the fact that their right to do so was guaranteed in 1993 with the passing of the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act.

The participation by a handful of our affiliates in supporting women who choose to make fetal tissue donation has always been about nothing other than honoring the desire of those women and contributing to life-saving research and cures. In order to completely debunk the disingenuous argument that our opponents have been using – and to reveal the true political purpose of these attacks – our Federation has decided, going forward, that any Planned Parenthood health center that is involved in donating tissue after an abortion for medical research will follow the model already in place at one of our two affiliates currently facilitating donations for fetal tissue research. That affiliate accepts no reimbursement for its reasonable expenses – even though reimbursement is fully permitted under the 1993 law. Going forward, all of our health centers will follow the same policy, even if it means they will not recover reimbursements permitted by the 1993 law.

This means that PP must now cover those expenses on its own, which is unfortunate. I can think of few things less "pro-life" than discouraging organ and tissue donation. The tapes also resulted in nationwide campaigns to defund Planned Parenthood, and thousands of people who still insist they are guilty of a crime somehow. But that was a wrong they did that can't be punished in the courts, which upheld a different anti-choice group's "right to lie." Whether or not these privacy violations can hold up will remain to be seen.

Daleiden and Merritt continue to insist that the charges have no merit, with Daleiden describing the videos as “citizen journalism par excellence.” Which hey, might have been true if they actually proved that Planned Parenthood actually did anything wrong, but they didn't. Daleiden maintains that the conversations were not confidential, and points to a congressional hearing in which Cecile Richards described the conversations as non-confidential. Which has nothing to do with taping people without their consent, but way to throw some strawmen around. He also believes that the charges that have been brought against him are the result of former California Attorney General Kamala Harris pandering to her constituency, rather than any wrongdoing on his or Merritt's parts.

Daleiden says he will be releasing "previously unseen footage" from his Planned Parenthood adventures. Which are probably really compelling given that he didn't release them in the first place. Probably he has caught them doing all kinds of other completely legal things!

[Washington Post]

Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse

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