Observations On The Center for Medical Progress Indictment In The Planned Parenthood Case

Never mind....

A Houston grand jury investigating undercover footage of Planned Parenthood taken in a lengthy hidden-camera sting operation engineered by the Center for Medical Progress not only found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, it instead indicted the anti-abortion activists involved in making the videos. The Center’s 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 involved in the operation, Sandra Merritt, was indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

1. It looks like they may have violated the law, at least it looks that way sufficiently to justify an indictment. In order to sting Planned Parenthood, the Center and its allies 1) used a fake drivers license and 2) allegedly offered to buy human baby parts, which is against the law. I have no problem with the indictment, and neither should anybody else. The ends don’t justify the means, and an activist group trying to do what it thinks is right has no more leave to break laws than anyone else.

2. The Center for Medical Progress defends it actions  by arguing that its activists use “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.” That’s an everybody does ut argument. As the Volokh Conspiracy, points out, journalists have no more right to break laws than anyone else.

3. Kevin Drum, at Mother Jones, of all places, questions the indictment because “the law prohibiting the solicitation of human organs for purchase was clearly intended to prevent a black market in such things, not to punish people who are so against the sale of human organs that they falsely represent themselves as buyers in hopes of discovering and shutting down illegal activity.”  I take it back; that sounds like a Mother Jones argument. It’s like saying that murder laws exist to stop good people from being killed by bad people, and shouldn’t apply to good people killing bad people. Or that laws against theft were never intended to punish a poor family trying to feed its children. Laws are put in place to stop conduct that society doesn’t want to occur. When an exception is necessary, then an exception must be drafted,  passed, and signed into.  law.

4. The maximum sentences are obviously too high. That’s an issue for another day. As always, I hold that if you are going to break a law, don’t complain about the potential sentence. It’s Baretta’s Law: “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.” This is as fair as fair can be.

5. This was a fiasco, a missed opportunity, and a sad reminder that zealots are often the worst activists to address societal reform. They frequently louse it up, set the cause back, and maybe kill it. John Brown killed innocent people to oppose slavery; Harriet Beecher Stowe did research, wrote a novel based on it, and changed the culture. The undercover videos of Planned Parenthood personnel discussing human fetal parts and abortion procedures as if they were taking about sorting soft-drink cans for re-cycling was, or should be, revolting to anyone. So were some of the graphic shots of the carnage of abortion. I wrote back in August:

The new video includes images showing what a 19-20 week fetus looks like after it has been aborted and is outside the womb. Any casual and smug abortion advocate needs to look directly at these images and explain why a society should permit this any time a woman’s life plans are threatened by the tiny, helpless, developing human being. Then let’s hear the rationalizations. It’s not really human. It doesn’t think. It can’t process pain. It’s only a potential life. It’s nobody’s business but the mother’s (well, it’s Planned Parenthood’s business too, but never mind, never mind…) The new rationalization, launched as a Planned Parenthood talking point: All medical procedures are icky, and this is no different.

Yes, it would have been worse if one of the Planned Parenthood ghouls had actually played with the parts in their casual dismissal of their humanity, using fetus heads as finger puppets, perhaps, or maybe facetiously calling out to a collage, “Need a hand?” and tossing them a tiny arm. Still, the videos could have served as abortion’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

From the same post:

“The latest video, like the earlier ones, compels any fair, emotionally functioning and rational observer to accept the brutality and near complete callousness towards human life that the abortion machine creates and requires. In this respect the seven videos—with more to come— are abortion’s equivalent of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” forcing genteel, moral, good people by their own confident assessment to confront the horrors that have been occurring under their noses with their passive approval. Because they chose not to think about what abortion really involved, just as so many Americans had no idea what  slavery was like until Harriet Beecher Stowe forced them to consider it as more than an abstraction, abortion advocates, passive and active, have an ethical obligation to watch these videos. Those who refuse are admitting that they are incapable of letting facts disturb their ideologies.”

The Center botched it, and their incompetence was unethical in its scope.

6.  I explained before how the focus of the Center was misguided:

The focus on Planned Parenthood as the villain here is misplaced,  unfair, and ultimately self-defeating. Abortion itself, and the culture that accepts and embraces it based on political propaganda and misrepresentation, are the wrongs to address, not the organization that only facilitates conduct that has already been sanctified by ideology, power and law.

I don’t particularly care what happens to the fetuses, or their parts,  after they have been killed. Using them for valuable research mitigates the damage; it doesn’t add to it. I care if Planned Parenthood violates the law, but no more than I care that any organization violates the law. Making that organization the issue is, frankly, stupid, and allows, yet again, the pro-abortion forces to avoid the real ethical dilemmas and conflicts at the heart of the abortion debate.. Look at all the op-eds and defenses of Planned Parenthood bickering about whether “harvesting” is a fair word to use, and how being reimbursed by researchers for fetus parts isn’t the same as selling them. The attacks on Planned Parenthood play into the abortion lobby’s hands, because it allows abortion advocates to steer the subject away from that which is no more defensible under human, ethical and moral principles than Simon Legree killing his human property for the fun of it.

7. Well, I have seldom been sorrier to be right. That’s exactly what happened. The Republicans—boy, are they dumb!—and Ted Cruz, who isn’t dumb but is such a hollow-eyed zealot that he might as well be—made this all about Planned Parenthood and the weak case that it was “trafficking” in baby parts. Deftly, both Planned Parenthood and pro-abortion advocates steered public attention  away from the videos. They were “heavily edited,” we were told, except that the editing didn’t create the smiling and smirking faces that discussed the deaths of vulnerable little humans in the womb like it was a weather report, or manufacture the footage of what an aborted fetus looks like. Never mind, mission accomplished. The news media naturally aided the effort to portray the videos as somehow fraudulent, then neglected and finally buried the story. The silly GOP wasted time, credibility and political capital using the videos in an effort to defund Planned Parenthood, making the videos political when the should have been purely non-partisan means of public enlightenment—or do Democrats really not mind seeing tiny, bloody unborn babies?. Now the grand jury has turned the weak case into a non-indictment of the targets, and the activists get charged instead. Fiasco.

8. Planned Parenthood says it has been “vindicated,” and that’s how the story will be told and remembered. Abortion hasn’t been vindicated, but a group of activists whose motives were admirable waded into a controversy far over their competence level. They sank, and in doing so made our society’s damning acceptance of abortion more secure than it was before.


23 thoughts on “Observations On The Center for Medical Progress Indictment In The Planned Parenthood Case

  1. 4) Another day but if you’ll allow a couple small points…


    (2) An offense under this section is a felony of the third degree if it is shown on the trial of the offense that the governmental record was a public school record, report, or assessment instrument required under Chapter 39, Education Code, or was a license, certificate, permit, seal, title, letter of patent, or similar document issued by government, by another state, or by the United States, unless the actor’s intent is to defraud or harm another, in which event the offense is a felony of the second degree.

    The defraud could push it from the 2-10 of a third degree to the 2-20 of second degree but given we’re talking about fake IDs and first offences, closer to the minimum is a reasonable exception.

    Second, the media does like to sensationalize large numbers no matter how unrealistic. For reference see many entries on popehat.

    8) They were accused of something, a grand jury which requires extremely low standards of proof says not. How is that not vindication?

    • I explained what I meant by that. The videos showed Planned Parenthood to be staffed by uncaring ghouls. That they didn’t sell fetal remains for profit is hardly a virtue. They were vindicated of a crime, not of being thoroughly corrupted and complicit in a human rights catastrophe.

      • But people who think that now probably though that before, yes? It’s the accusation of criminality that would be damaging to the status-quo.

        • I think you’re wrong on that. Abortion isn’t just icky, it’s horrifying, but it’s done out of the spotlight. People have a stunning ability to ignore things that they can’t see, Oh, we knew people were dying, we knew children were dying, in the refugee crisis, but it really hit people when they saw the pictures of the kid that washed up on shore. For better or worse, those pictures were a catalyst to public awareness…. Suddenly, they saw it, it was real, they couldn’t ignore it, and thy had to do something about it. Abortion as an institution took a blow here… And all it took was for people to see what’s actually going on.

          • I am borrowing from, attempting to expound on, a comment I saw in Facebook: Abortion in our society enjoys “Sneak Privilege.”

            It’s OK to destroy a developing human in her prenatal stage, as long as one can sneak it. It’s done because it can be done. It’s only the business of those involved in the sneaking, we are taught, we are led to believe. (In all honesty, I am actually very agreeable with notions of certain business being only the business of those directly engaged in it. But I am not agreeable in that way about abortion, because…well, we all know why.)

            But anyone who sneaks an expose’ on certain other sneakers’ sneaking is a criminal. After all, that is a case of someone’s making someone else’s business into the business of a host of others. Kind of like socialism.

          • Are you sure you’re not getting an echo effect? Who are these waking up people? The media only showed me exactly the people you’d expect when the words Planned Parenthood showed up. No one in casual iterations has brought it up beyond, did you hear the news? It can’t just be that they’re afraid of my reaction, trust me, no one on earth likes me enough to want to spare my feelings.

            • I suppose it’s possible. But as with any political issue, there are the die hards on each side, and then there’s the independents. I think this may have shaken some independents loose, and is a net loss to the institution of abortion. You see it in the polls: Never before has America been so willing to outlaw late term abortions, and I feel like the outrage from the pro-choice side was less… volatile…. maybe? There’s always been an element of rage when someone questions abortion, but in this case I felt it less, it was almost like they realized they’d been caught with their pants down and didn’t have an answer for the brown spot. I feel the polls back me up on this, but I can’t completely disregard the idea that this might be an insular victory.

        • It’s not even that Planned Patenthood DOESN’T sell baby parts for profit (they do, and admit as such.) It’s just that they don’t meet the legal definition of doing so illegally. Just as plenty of obvious pyramid schemes operate legally by falling outside of the legal definition of a “pyramid scheme.”

          PP officials admitted that they bargain for a good return on their fetal parts. As a non-profit, they have the legal right to do this as long as they justify their payment as a cost offset. As a non-profit that is also a business, works hard to maximize profits, and whose staff are well-paid and not volunteers…of course they sell baby parts for money. They also perform abortions for money.

  2. I’m not sure why, but this, the rise of Trump, and the killing of the occupier of a government building in Oregon makes me think I should re-read “The Image,” by Daniel Boorstin. I must have forgotten the definition of psudo event because these all seem to fit somehow even though they’re about very real, dangerous, and socially destructive things.

      • Oh, that gold star on the forehead brought back memories. Of first grade. This was in a public school. Not only were there gold stars (and silver stars) on foreheads of high-performing students; there were other adornments, accompanied by specific actions.

        Jack, I beg your patience and grace, while I write out a “memory dump.”

        This, I remember vividly: There were two classrooms of first-graders, side-by-side. In each room, a lady was the teacher. I was sitting in my place in my designated classroom one day, when the teacher lady next door knocked on my classroom door. The teacher lady in my classroom let the other teacher in, parading behind her several students from the other classroom. The visiting students were led to the front of my classroom, to stand and face all of us other first-graders, as we stayed quietly in our seats and stared. Each of the visiting students had a paper cut-out of an apple, colored as an apple would be, or should be, with crayons, pinned to their shirts or dresses – on upper left torsos. I recognized one boy in particular as someone I played with at recess. I remember his name.

        Except: each “apple” cut-out also had the extra little cut-outs for a stem – and a WORM – also with appropriate crayon colors. Finally, a magic marker, in bold, black strokes, had been used to write on the red face of each paper apple: “I did not do my work.” (I am fairly certain it was the other teacher’s writing on those apples.)

        So these poor kids, all crying, standing in front of the rest of us seated kids, were being shamed and made into negative examples, as admonishment to all of us to do our work. For us first-graders, that was something like terrorism.

        I remember that boy quietly sobbing as he stood and looked ahead toward us in our seats. I probably had never seen him cry before, and never saw him cry afterward. I vaguely recall thinking of him before that moment as a kind of “tough guy” on the playground – not a bully, exactly, just strong and with a knack for having his way – the swing he wanted, the ball when he wanted it, his preferred place on the monkey bars.

        I wish I could remember if, during the rest of my first grade year, I was eventually one of a parade of wormy-apple-wearing students, led to stand in shame in front of class; I probably was, at some point, maybe even more than once. And I probably did not cry, if for no other reason than to show I was tougher than that other boy. But I had to see him cry first.

        So with Planned Parenthood versus the Center for Medical Progress, we see shaming and counter-shaming. I hope that the video-makers don’t cry when they are punished. Like John Wayne famously said, life is tough, and it’s tougher when you’re stupid.

        That said, I have no idea how the Center possibly could have exposed PP’s unethical conduct by ethical means.

        • They could have done more or less what they did to acquire the videos, focused on the brutality and otherwise handled them effectively, and accepted any criminal charges as the price.

          Sometimes breaking the law is necessary. However, when faced with a generally good law that you need to break, in order to avoid weakening it you have to accept the punishment as well.

      • You’re a tough guy to compliment.

        The nuns used to put the stars on the oeuvre rather than the student, as far as I remember.

        • Both, at Parmenter Elementary School in Arlington, Mass. The Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Watts, even put big, 1″ X 1″ stickers on our foreheads–and SHE did the licking— when we really impressed her. Getting them off was like ripping off a bandaid.

          • I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who survived that particular brand of recognition. As a kid I always hated getting dirty (no playing in the dirt, washing my hands after handling chalk, etc.), so I’m surprised the licked stars did not discourage me from being a good student.

  3. My take — The Center people’s strategy all along was kamikaze. They knew they would get caught, that PP would fight back, and that some legal boss would indict them. If they complain of being idicted, either they never read Thoreau or they felt the need to complain to keep everything in the public eye. But the toothpaste is out of the tube. Pandora’s box is open. We all now have seen what up until now has been usually only on pro-life signs outside of abortion clinics. Even the most blase people regarding abortion can probably never un-see what they saw in the videos. The truth is out there now. If the Center people have any sense, they should be content that they raised public consciousness about the realities of abortion.

  4. On point 3, readers might like to compare and contrast this with the nineteenth century Eliza Armstrong case, for which W.T.Stead was jailed as he had cut some legal corners in exposing what he found.

    Simon Legree has been done an injustice. He didn’t “[kill] his human property for the fun of it”, he merely ran his business while simply recording any deaths in his accounts as “losses”.

  5. This is hardly different than David Boren expelling those students in defiance of the First Amendment. You will likely notice that the arguments defending the conduct here are similar to the arguments defending Boren’s conduct.

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