AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas grand jury investigating Planned Parenthood has indicted two anti-abortion activists who covertly shot videos of the organization.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson announced Monday that Center for Medical Progress founder David Daleiden was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanor count related to purchasing human organs. Another activist was also indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record.
A news release announcing the indictment doesn’t say what the record was.
Anderson said the grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing.
The Center for Medical Progress is the anti-abortion group that released covertly shot videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of aborted fetuses for research.
A phone message left with the group wasn’t immediately returned.
The leader of the Center for Medical Progress was indicted Monday in Houston by a grand jury investigating the anti-abortion group’s undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the handling of fetal tissue. Here is some information about the center:
WHAT IS THE CENTER FOR MEDICAL PROGRESS?
The center is a nonprofit organization that described its mission in a 2013 application to the state of California as to “monitor and report on medical ethics and advances.” Public filings show a handful of people associated with the organization are longtime anti-abortion activists. The addresses for the group listed in public filings are postal drops in Sacramento and Irvine, California. Based on its submissions to the IRS, the center took in less than $50,000 in 2014 and thus did not have to disclose its donors. CEO David Daleiden is the only salaried member of the group, receiving $30,000 a year. He is the former director of research for the anti-abortion group Live Action, which is known for using undercover videos to target Planned Parenthood. Daleiden was indicted in Houston on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanor count related to purchasing human organs. Another anti-abortion activist, Sandra Merritt, was also indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record.
THE UNDERCOVER VIDEOS
The group released a series of graphic videos alleging that Planned Parenthood profited from the sale of fetal tissue — something the abortion provider denies. One video shows officials associated with the Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, which includes Texas. Footage from the clinic in Houston showed people pretending to be from a company called BioMax that procures fetal tissue for research touring the facility. Planned Parenthood has previously said that the fake company sent an agreement offering to pay the “astronomical amount” of $1,600 for organs from a fetus. The clinic said it never entered into the agreement and ceased contact with BioMax because it was “disturbed” by the overtures.
OTHER MEMBERS OF THE GROUP
Troy Newman, listed as the center’s secretary, is president of the Kansas-based anti-abortion group Operation Rescue and has posed as a reporter to record conversations with abortion providers in the past. Albin Rhomberg, the center’s chief financial officer, was arrested in 1991 for disrupting a church service during the inauguration of California Gov. Pete Wilson, an abortion-rights Republican. In 2005, he led an unsuccessful attempt to pass a California ballot measure requiring doctors to notify parents or guardians before performing abortions on minors. Nichole Surkala, who is listed as the center’s contact if it is sued, was convicted in California in 2007 of willful cruelty to her 12-year-old son, according to court papers. Police found she kept a horse and seven dogs in a house in Modesto that was filled with animal feces and rotting produce.