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.