Anti-abortion activists had fake ID's for filming: Texas court papers

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 26, 2016 3:46 PM

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Two anti-abortion campaigners who secretly filmed a Planned Parenthood official discussing fetal tissue procurement used fake driver's licenses to enter the group's offices, court papers released in Texas on Tuesday said.

In an unanticipated twist for the Republican leaders of Texas who ordered the probe and accused the women's health group of illegally trading in aborted fetal tissue, a grand jury in Harris County cleared Planned Parenthood and instead indicted video makers David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt on Monday for tampering with a governmental record.

Documents filed in Harris County court showed California driver's licenses for the pair when they were making the video - Daleiden used an ID in the name of Robert David Sarkis and Merritt posed as Susan Sarah Tennenbaum.

The court papers said the defendants unlawfully used a fake government record "with the intent to defraud or harm others."

They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The videos released last summer purported to show Planned Parenthood officials trying to negotiate prices for aborted fetal tissue. Under federal law, donated human fetal tissue may be used for research, but profiting from its sale is prohibited.

In response to the videos, Texas and other Republican-controlled states tried to halt funding for Planned Parenthood operations, with Republicans in the U.S. Congress also pushing for a funding cut.

Planned Parenthood, which provides healthcare services to millions of women at hundreds of centers nationwide, has denied any wrongdoing and said it has not profited from fetal tissue donation.

The Center for Medical Progress, led by Daleiden, said in a statement on Monday that it "uses the same undercover techniques that investigative journalists have used for decades." Some of the secret videos posted on the group's website were taken in Texas.

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, a Republican, said her office along with Houston police and the Texas Rangers, a statewide investigative force, looked into allegations of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood for more than two months, and the grand jury cleared the group.

"As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us," she said.

Planned Parenthood sued Center for Medical Progress on Jan. 14 in San Francisco federal court arguing that the people who recorded the videos acted illegally.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; editing by Grant McCool)