“We must go where the evidence leads us,” is how Harris County, Texas, District Attorney Devon Anderson described the grand jury investigating allegations that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue for profit.
The “evidence” was clear to abortion opponents throughout the country. They had seen the videos released by the Center for Medical Progress. The horrific footage was enough to convince presidential candidate Carly Fiorina; Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback; Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan.; Robert Lewis Dear, the man accused of killing three and wounding nine during a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado; and a host of others. All proclaimed outrage, followed by retaliation against the “abortion industry leader.”
Then came the investigations. Officials in 11 states — including Kansas — cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing after probing into claims the organization profited from fetal tissue donations. Eight other states didn’t conduct an official investigation after being requested. “Lack of any evidence” was the reason cited in all eight instances. Five different congressional investigations have been launched, although nothing has come of them other than to serve as platforms for politicians’ self-aggrandizement; no findings of criminal activity were discovered.
This week, the Texas grand jury released its findings. According to a Tribune News Service report, the district attorney said: After meeting for two months, grand jurors cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing.
Dwell on that for a moment. This wasn’t in a criminal court, where defendants must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Or in a civil court, where the standard only requires the defendant is more likely guilty than not. This was a grand jury, whose standard to meet is even lower. Jury members only need to decide if the evidence presented warrants enough probable cause for the state to pursue charges.
The grand jury, even in conservative Texas, decided Planned Parenthood did nothing wrong.
That could have been the conclusion. However, there was enough evidence presented that the grand jury did offer indictments — against the anti-abortion activists who made the videos. A felony charge of tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanor charge connected to purchasing human organs were levied against the director of the Center for Medical Progress. One of the center’s employees featured in the videos also was charged with tampering with a governmental record.
The director is claiming his First Amendment rights as a self-proclaimed “citizen journalist” are being violated. So are his attorneys and anti-abortion groups intent on destroying Planned Parenthood.
That argument could work up to the point that the videos were edited and manipulated to create a distorted view of the facts. That is what Planned Parenthood alleges in its lawsuit against the center, and most likely will be the case once a judge or jury examines that evidence. There is a chasm between exposing the truth and presenting one’s beliefs as the truth.
“These people broke the law to spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood in order to advance their extreme antiabortion political agenda,” said Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
We are pleased the local district attorney in Texas allowed the grand jury to go where the evidence led. That is how the judicial system is supposed to work.
Elected officials everywhere should follow a similar path, rather than falling for falsified videos and jumping on anti-Planned Parenthood bandwagons.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., offered this back in July: “Each successive video of senior Planned Parenthood officials discussing the harvesting of tissue remains of aborted babies is more gruesome than the last. Human lives are the cost of the organization’s appalling efforts to collect fetal organs and tissues.”
Huelskamp, in an attempt to cut off federal funding to the organization entirely, said: “Planned Parenthood should not be allowed to profit off the death of its abortion victims by selling their organs to the highest bidder.”
National and state leaders who are supposed to be supportive of our nation’s dependence on the rule of law do the citizenry no service when they can be so easily lured by propaganda. Federal law already prohibits tax dollars from being used for abortion services. Their attempts — and in Brownback’s Kansas, the actual deed — of cutting funding from Planned Parenthood only affects women who use the organization for basic health services.
“Follow the evidence.” That is pretty good advice for elected officials sworn to uphold the Constitution. We encourage them to follow it.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry