Texas judge dismisses charge against pro-life undercover journalist

David Daleiden speaking at Values Voters Summit 2015.. Photo by Ellen Kolb
David Daleiden speaking at Values Voters Summit 2015.. Photo by Ellen Kolb

When I last reported on David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress, CMP recordings had just been seized by California officials. It was one more retaliatory legal headache for the journalist whose undercover videos revealed trafficking in body parts by Planned Parenthood affiliates.

Now, another state’s politically-motivated prosecution of Daleiden has taken a hit. A Texas judge has dismissed a charge against Daleiden for trafficking in body parts. You read that right: the local prosecutor decided to go after Daleiden, not Planned Parenthood.

Peter Breen is Special Counsel with the Thomas More Society, which is defending Daleiden. Remarking on the dismissal of the Texas charge, he said, “The Harris County prosecutors were in such a rush to criminalize David Daleiden that they did not properly obtain grand jury approval of each of the elements of the charged misdemeanor.” Breen’s full statement is here.

The judge who dismissed the charge may or may not have been aware of the recent revelation that Planned Parenthood’s legal team received confidential materials about the Daleiden case from the district attorney prosecuting the case.

Breen had something to say about that, too:

“The recent filings by the Harris County District Attorney confirm that the DA shared confidential documents and information with abortion provider Planned Parenthood, colluding with it in the prosecution of David Daleiden. These filings also include evidence that appears to show that the DA’s office worked with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast to undermine the Texas Attorney General’s independent investigation of that abortion provider. The conduct of Harris County prosecutors in this case is outrageous and illegal. We look forward to pressing our motion to quash this indictment in court.”

I’m sure California prosecutors are keeping an eye on Texas, wondering how far a politically-motivated prosecution can go.

Gosnell grand jury: “license abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical facilities”

As the Supreme Court hears a case involving a Texas law mandating that abortion facilities be given the same regulatory treatment as ambulatory care facilities, the Gosnell grand jury report from 2011 reminds us what happens when pro-abortion ideology trumps women’s health. I hope the Justices find this report somewhere amid the many briefs that have been filed in the Texas case.

quote from Gosnell grand jury

Gosnell was in Pennsylvania, but the recommendations of the grand jury are of interest to anyone who cares about public health in any state. From page 248 of the grand jury report, under “Recommendations”: “The Pennsylvania Department of Health should license abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical facilities.”

“The regulation of Pennsylvania’s ambulatory surgical facilities – which run over 30 pages – provide a comprehensive set of rules and procedures to assure overall quality of care at such facilities. The effect of the Department of Health’s reluctance to treat abortion clinics as ASFs was to accord patients of those facilities far less protection than patients seeking, for example, liposuction or a colonoscopy….Gosnell’s facility fell far below the basic, minimum standards of care that any patient having a surgical procedure should expect to receive. There is no justification for denying abortion patients the protections available to every other patient of an ambulatory surgical facility, and no reason to exempt abortion clinics from meeting these standards.”

Does the Texas law at issue today create stronger regulations on abortion providers than on, say, liposuction providers? Based on their questions today, some Justices apparently think so, and they don’t like it. I wonder how many of them would object if they believed the law simply required parity with ASFs.

Today at the Supreme Court of the United States, our nation’s solicitor general argued against the Texas law, calling it an “undue burden.”

The Pennsylvania Family Institute and Council anticipated that argument. Their words: “Ask the women who went to Kermit Gosnell if lower standards for abortion clinics is a good thing.”

From Pennsylvania Family Institute.
From Pennsylvania Family Institute.

 

PP watchdogs, heads up: Daleiden, Merritt of CMP facing indictment

[Update: in July 2016, the Houston District Attorney dropped all charges agianst Daleiden & Merritt, after a June decision by a judge to dismiss one of the charges.]

A Texas grand jury has indicted David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt for alleged offenses related to the Center for Medical Progress videos about Planned Parenthood’s body-parts business. The same grand jury found nothing for which to indict the local PP affiliate. It was beyond the grand jury’s scope to look at any other affiliate.

CMP’s statement on the indictment:

“The Center for Medical Progress uses the same undercover techniques that investigative journalists have used for decades in exercising our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press, 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. Planned Parenthood still cannot deny the admissions from their leadership about fetal organ sales captured on video for all the world to see.”

This is not the last word, but the indictment may well have a chilling effect on anyone doing the essential work of showing life on the inside of the nation’s principal abortion provider.

Here’s reaction from some interested observers. Abby Johnson, for one, sees something good coming from this. “I’m personally excited about the discovery that will take place against Planned Parenthood. And yes, if laws were broken by David or anyone else, then that will also come out. But we may finally get the truth out about Planned Parenthood. And that’s what we need to be praying for.”

Planned Parenthood cannot rebut the incriminating statements its own leadership made on the undercover CMP videos, and…

Posted by Alliance Defending Freedom on Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Here is my comment about the indictment that has come from the a grand jury out of Houston against those who did the…

Posted by Abby Johnson: ProWoman, ProChild, ProLife on Tuesday, January 26, 2016

As far as Harris County, TX goes, PP is cleared, but the David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt should be charged for…

Posted by Catholic Phoenix on Tuesday, January 26, 2016


SCOTUS term is over – but they suspended Texas abortion regs before leaving

Abortion regulation, the HHS/Obamacare contraceptive mandate, and the death penalty got some attention from the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) before the Court’s term ended Monday. The day was somewhat anticlimactic in view of last week’s decision re-defining marriage nationwide.

Justice Anthony Kennedy (supremecourt.gov photo)
Justice Anthony Kennedy (supremecourt.gov photo)

> New Texas abortion regulations are on hold by order of the Court, pending a full hearing of the case – possibly next term. The vote was 5-4. Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Justice Anthony Kennedy joined with “the Court’s liberals” (Politico’s term, not mine) in the majority.

> In the latest order – again, not a decision – on Obamacare’s insurance-coverage contraceptive mandate, the Court upheld for now a Solomonic decision by the Third Circuit that figuratively splits the baby. A group of Catholic entities in Pennsylvania challenged the mandate. The Third Circuit upheld the mandate, but okayed a mother-may-I procedure for religious entities objecting to it. Whether the Constitution allows mother-may-I is yet to be decided by the top court. I’ll let the legal eagles at SCOTUSblog summarize this one.


“First, the religious groups must provide some type of notice to the federal Department of Health and Human Services that they want and are entitled to a religious exemption from the mandate.   If the groups do that, the government may not enforce the mandate directly against them, while the Court is pondering whether to review the case itself.

“Second, the women who are employed by or are students at the religious organizations are assured that they will have access, at no cost to them, of birth control methods and devices approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration.   The government can go ahead, the Court made clear, and make arrangements for the health insurance plans in effect for the religious groups to assure free access to the contraceptives.  The government will reimburse the cost.

“The Court’s order stressed that it did not mean that the Justices were ruling on the correctness of the Third Circuit decision.   That will be the issue if the Court grants review in the pending case of Zubik v. Burwell (docket 14-1418).”

> This one was a full-blown decision: in Glossip v. Gross, the Court upheld the use of a particular drug for executions. Challengers had claimed it amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Among the original petitioners, according to Justice Scalia, was someone convicted of the rape and murder of an 11-month-old baby. I feel nothing but revulsion at that; “cruel and unusual” seems just about right for such a criminal. My opposition to the death penalty, though, doesn’t depend on how lovable the criminal might be.

Justice Stephen Breyer (supremecourt.gov photo)
Justice Stephen Breyer (supremecourt.gov photo)

I have to wonder whether “humane” execution is designed for the prisoner’s sake or the onlookers’. The less we squirm, the better – is that the idea? Justice Breyer – not a man whose decisions respect any right to life for preborn children – dissented from the Glossip decision, and he apparently didn’t parse the which-drugs-are-better question. He flat-out asked for a briefing on the constitutionality of capital punishment.

This wasn’t the case for that. Apparently, the Court is cautious about overreaching on the death penalty. Their delicacy is amusing in view of their marriage decision. Perhaps I’ll live to see a day when boldness prevails in defense of the right to life.

Abortion providers are mistaken: the sky isn’t falling in Texas

Texas capitol
photo: www.capitol.state.tx.us

“Roe v. Wade is almost entirely dead,” pronounced Chicken Little a blogger at ThinkProgress, as reported by LifeSiteNews. This came by way of mourning the June 9 decision by a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that a Texas law regulating abortion is partially valid.

Huh? Four abortion facilities and three doctors challenged the Texas law, and won some points in federal district court. Now, the Fifth Circuit panel has affirmed the district court’s ruling in part, modified it in part, vacated it in part, and reversed it in part. Roe, shredded battle flag that it is, is still being upheld. Read for yourself how carefully the Fifth Circuit avoided breaking new ground in abortion jurisprudence.

The most significant part of the decision – the part that prompted sky-is-falling rhetoric from abortion providers – is the upholding of a provision of the law that holds abortion facilities to the same standards as ambulatory surgical facilities (ASCs). You know, the standards that exist for patient safety. One Texas facility was exempted in the decision. The rest are now expected to meet the standards. The court noted that the plaintiffs tried to tar the entire law with a broad brush: “Plaintiffs conceded at oral argument that they made no effort to narrow their challenge to any particular standards of the ASC provision of H.B. 2 or its accompanying regulations. Instead, they ask us to invalidate the entire ASC requirement.” The Fifth Circuit has declined to do so. Perhaps future litigation on similar laws in other states will feature narrower challenges.

The challenged law, by the way, is H.B. 2, successor to S.B. 5 – the one Wendy Davis (remember her?) filibustered two years ago in her pink Mizunos,

A couple of footnotes to the case caught my attention. Footnote number 15 addressed the claim by plaintiffs (the abortion providers) that ASC standards would leave only eight operational abortion facilities in Texas. It seems that such an outcome is questionable.

The State …[argues]  that currently licensed abortion facilities that do not comply with the ASC requirement might buy, build, or lease a licensed ASC. The parties stipulated that there were “433 licensed ambulatory surgical centers in Texas.” There was testimony at trial that Dr. Davis and Austin Woman’s Health Center purchased land in Austin with plans to open an ASC in the future and that Reproductive Services hoped to open an ASC in San Antonio. The fact that there are currently licensed ASCs in Texas where abortions are performed and that abortion providers have plans to open more attests that it is indeed possible for abortion providers to comply with the ASC requirement. …

And then there’s the opening line of footnote 17:

Plaintiffs offered expert testimony that the ASC requirement’s construction standards were “largely aimed at maintaining a sterile operating environment,” which is not necessary for surgical abortion because “it entails insertion of instruments into the uterus through the vagina, which is naturally colonized by bacteria.”…

Gotta love those experts.

The Roe-is-dead declarations sidestep something significant: success in the courts for patient-safety laws regarding surgical abortion is going to prompt abortion providers to rely more on chemical and telemed abortion. (See Chemical Abortion Scores in Court from 2013, including notes on New Hampshire.) This doesn’t mean the Texas law and others like it are bad ideas. It means the abortion industry will adapt its business model to whatever legislation is in place – always keeping some resources free for litigation, of course.