Pro-life groups cried foul over Monday’s criminal indictments against two Center for Medical Progress investigators because a prosecutor in the Harris County District Attorney’s office is also a Planned Parenthood board member.
Lila Rose, founder of the pro-life group Live Action, called for a special prosecutor to review the Texas grand jury investigation into Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.
“The district attorney’s office was asked months ago about recusing itself from this case because one of its prosecutors serves as a board member of the Planned Parenthood affiliate involved in the case,” said Ms. Rose in a late Monday statement. “It is unacceptable that the office did not recuse itself to eliminate any and all questions of potential bias.”
Operation Rescue and others had asked the District Attorney Devon Anderson to appoint a special prosecutor into Planned Parenthood’s involvement with fetal-tissue sales after learning in August that Lauren Reeder, a prosecutor in the family criminal law division, served on the board of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.
Ms. Anderson, a Republican, said at the time that Ms. Reeder had recused herself from the probe into Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, and that she “will not be involved in any manner in this investigation.”
After the grand jury indicted not Planned Parenthood officials but two investigators behind undercover videos on the organization’s role in procuring fetal tissue for medical research, however, pro-life advocates blasted the Harris County probe as tainted.
“If you don’t want the appearance of impropriety, a special prosecutor should have been selected,” said Operation Rescue senior vice president Cheryl Sullenger. “And now, because they allowed a Planned Parenthood mole to remain in that office, that just increases our concern about the process.”
Meanwhile, Judge Andrew Napolitano described the indictments Monday on Fox News as a “political hit job.”
Ms. Anderson said earlier that Ms. Reeder had volunteered the information about her association with Planned Parenthood, adding, “She made the disclosure in order to be transparent.”
“If at any time in the future, reliable and credible information is brought to my attention that would question our ability to continue to perform a fair, thorough and independent investigation of this matter due to her board membership, I will revisit the issue of seeking the appointment of an independent prosecutor and act accordingly,” Ms. Anderson said in an Aug. 7 statement to the Houston Chronicle.
Ms. Reeder’s LinkedIn page shows that she has served as co-chair of Planned Parenthood Young Leaders since 2009 and as a board member since 2013 of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, which was targeted by CMP investigators, according to a Tuesday post on the Federalist.
Two CMP investigators, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, were indicted by a grand jury Monday with tampering with governmental records by creating fake driver’s licenses as part of a nearly three-year undercover investigation.
Mr. Daleiden was also indicted on a misdemeanor charge of soliciting human organs. He released a statement Monday defending the investigation and saying that “buying fetal tissue requires a seller as well.”
Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, said it was “not surprising” that the DA’s office would find Planned Parenthood “blameless while trying to silence those who want to protect every human being’s life.”
“The evidence against Daleiden, as reported by the mainstream media, may or may not be valid, but lest we forget that the prosecution in this case is a district attorney’s office that has a Planned Parenthood board member as a prosecutor,” Ms. Brown said in a Tuesday statement.
Eleven undercover videos released by the CMP beginning in July prompted a dozen states to examine whether Planned Parenthood was illegally trafficking in fetal tissue from abortions. Planned Parenthood officials have insisted they were only reimbursed for costs associated with providing fetal tissue to researchers, which is legal.
Officials at Planned Parenthood, who had accused the center of deceptively editing the videos, cheered the indictments.
“These people broke the law to spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood in order to advance their extreme anti-abortion political agenda,” said Planned Parenthood spokesman Eric Ferrero in a Monday statement. “As the dust settles and the truth comes out, it’s become totally clear that the only people who engaged in wrongdoing are the criminals behind this fraud, and we’re glad they’re being held accountable.”