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Anti-Abortion Activists Get Caught In Their Own Sting

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Anti-Abortion Activists Get Caught In Their Own Sting


When anti-abortion activists began a fraudulent “sting” operation against Planned Parenthood, they surely had no idea that it would lead to this: criminal indictments against their own plotters. This is one of the best instances of retributive justice to hit the political scene in decades.

The anti-abortion crowd who carried out this campaign certainly deserve what they got. They set out to use lies, deception and, it turns out, allegedly illegal acts not just to embarrass Planned Parenthood but also to cripple it — to turn the organization, which is one of the nation’s leading providers of women’s reproductive health services, into such a pariah that its funding would dry up. Instead, the schemers have been exposed as the liars and frauds that they are.

Their deception was in keeping with the long and tawdry history of the anti-abortion crusade, which has used falsehoods and misinformation to try to prevent women from having access to safe and legal abortions. Activists have claimed that abortion is linked to breast cancer. (It isn’t.) They have insisted that abortion leads to long-term mental anguish. (There are no data to support that claim.) And some have even said that there is no reason to include exceptions for rape and incest in any abortion restrictions, since rape cannot lead to pregnancy. (That’s just nonsense.)

This particular episode of right-wing overreach hit the airwaves last year, when an anti-abortion activist named David Daleiden, director of the so-called Center for Medical Progress, released videos that purported to show Planned Parenthood employees selling fetal tissue retrieved from abortions, which is illegal. He claimed the videos showed “a criminal conspiracy to make money off of aborted baby parts.”

But, like other so-called stings by ultraconservative “citizen-journalists,” this operation did not depend on fairness, accuracy or transparency. Instead, the videos were heavily edited and sometimes doctored to give the appearance of wrongdoing.

Of course, that didn’t stop conservative politicians from pouncing on the opportunity to show their support for Daleiden’s efforts. Businesswoman Carly Fiorina, a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, dove headfirst into the miasma of Daleiden’s lies, suggesting during a September debate that she had seen video footage of “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.'”

No such video exists, and PolitiFact later ruled Fiorina’s dramatic tale “mostly false.”

Some Republican hard-liners in Congress, including presidential contender Ted Cruz, insisted that their party should shut down the government rather than assent to a budget that included funding for Planned Parenthood.

Meanwhile, several investigations were launched into Planned Parenthood’s alleged perfidy. Multiple states, from Kansas to Georgia to Massachusetts, conducted probes, as did three congressional committees. None — not one — of the investigations turned up any wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood.

Indeed, Harris County (Houston), Texas, also convened a grand jury to investigate Planned Parenthood. But in a stunning irony, the grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood and instead returned criminal indictments against Daleiden on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record and on a misdemeanor charge related to purchasing human organs. A second anti-abortion activist, Sandra S. Merritt, was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record. (Both felony charges involve making fake driver’s licenses to fool Planned Parenthood employees about their actual identities.)

If supporters of Daleiden and Merritt try to persuade you this is some partisan smear, know that the Harris County prosecutor who convened the grand jury is a Republican, Devon Anderson, who has described herself as “pro-life.” “As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us,” she told reporters.

Not that the anti-abortionists are giving up. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that their separate investigations would continue. They are as relentless as their partisan colleagues in Congress have been in investigating Benghazi — and similarly unsuccessful.

But finding evidence of genuine criminal wrongdoing was never the goal of these investigations. Instead, ultraconservatives who crusade against reproductive rights are animated by a desire to turn back the clock to a time when women had little control over their own bodies. Their critics have dubbed this a “war on women” for good reason.

(Cynthia Tucker won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at cynthia@cynthiatucker.com.)

Photo: Protesters stand on a sidewalk outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Vista, California August 3, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Cynthia Tucker Haynes

Cynthia Tucker Haynes, a veteran newspaper journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner, is a Visiting Professor of Journalism and Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the University of Georgia. She is also a highly-regarded commentator on TV and radio news shows.

Haynes was editorial page editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper for 17 years, where she led the development of opinion policy. More recently, she was that newspaper’s Washington-based political columnist. She maintains a syndicated column through Universal Press Syndicate, which is published in dozens of newspapers around the country. Besides winning the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007, Haynes has also received numerous other awards, including Journalist of the Year from the National Association of Black Journalists.

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  1. yabbed January 30, 2016

    We cannot allow a President with strong religious affiliations into the Oval Office. Benign Christianity is one thing; radical religious fervor is inappropriate. Cruz, Rubio, and Sanders are far too religiously affiliated to be trustworthy on domestic or foreign policy. The world would no longer accept our leadership on the world stage. People may not wish to hear that, but it is absolutely irrefutable. We would become so aligned by religion as to be dismissed across the globe.

    1. A_Real_Einstein January 30, 2016

      Sanders is not religiously affiliated at all. What are you talking about? This is why Hillary will lose. hHer surrogates like you are lying because they know Bernie’s message is resonating. 2008 all over again.

      1. @HawaiianTater January 30, 2016

        yabbed is delusional when it comes to the Hillary/Bernie topic. Bernie is a non-practicing Jew. To lump him in with religious zealots like Rubio and Cruz only shows how delusional yabbed is. 2008 all over again, indeed. Hillary’s camp knows they are losing, so they are resorting to lying about Bernie. It’s sad and it won’t work.

        1. Cloudherder January 31, 2016

          I thought it was sort of a tie right now. I’m voting for Hillary, but really I’ll vote for whoever of the 2 it ends up being. Clooney/2020 ! (I’m on heavy medication lately)

          1. @HawaiianTater January 31, 2016

            Hillary is a Wall Street puppet and too much of a war hawk for my liking but I will certainly be voting for her if she gets the nomination because the alternative is complete disaster.

    2. Cloudherder January 31, 2016

      Yeah, what Einstein said … Sanders isn’t particularly religious … He’s “sorta” Jewish, his wife is “sorta” Catholic.

    3. dtgraham February 1, 2016

      I get that you’re a Hillary supporter. I get that. Not a problem. I can’t believe that you said that about Bernie though. I honest to god can’t. What indications has Bernie ever given that religion was a factor in his politics? When has he ever talked about it? Ever.

      I give the progressive left a lot more credit than this. If a candidate of the Jewish faith makes a big deal out of enacting policies based on his or her faith, then they’re open to criticism. If they never do, then it’s just Jew baiting.

  2. Joan January 30, 2016

    The GOP values profits over people with the possible exception of unborn babies. The erosion of our trust in the system is because no one is held accountable. Cops kill with impunity, elected officials poison the populace, why would anyone vote for a GOP candidate these days?

    1. jmprint January 30, 2016

      Because they are greedy, or racist.

    2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth January 30, 2016

      The GOP is being motivated by some preternatural force that impels the entire group to walk in sync like lemmings towards a precipice, and in a hypnotic fashion, plunge into a bottomless pit.

      What a pathetic lot and plight.

      1. Cloudherder January 31, 2016

        The Devil made them do it? BWAaaaHAaaaHAaaHaaaahaaa

  3. oldtack January 30, 2016

    When any group attempts to defame and discredit a person or an institution by fraudulent means the truth will eventually win out and expose them.This bogus sting is an example.

    If there is a “Law” in our institution that one fee;s should be repealed there are legal channels from District to State and all the way to the Supreme Court. The path is not through deceit or deceptive practices.

    I believe in abortion to a small extent such as rape, Incest and whne a womans life is endangered to name a few. However I am anti-abortion when it comes to how Roe v Wade has been used by the money loving establishment.

    As a Manager, I had many women in my workforce. One was a very attractive fun loving “party girl” Her work on the job was good but her after life was a something for coffee break gossip. This lady came to my office one day an requested a one week “emergency” leave of absence. To my inquiry she stated she need to go to a place for some medical treatment and did not want to use her accrued sick leave. I granted her the request and she returned to work the next week. It was later, through a lawsuit filed by her current boyfriend, that the medical problem was that she was pregnant and went to get an abortion without consulting anything with the father of the child. A couple of years later she did the same in another department – pregnant and getting a second abortion. To me this type of abortion is wrong. Killing two fetus so she could continue her lifestyle? It wasn’t due to financial circumstances. She make $75,000.00 a year and this was 36 years ago. She did not want to be inconvenienced.

    Fight had to change laws you feel are detrimental but do it by the law – not by violence, deceit or by fraudulence. .

    1. jmprint January 30, 2016

      Why would her life style be any of your business, men discuss their infidelities they are sins but all turn the other way. Aborting a fetus is a womens right whether for inconvenience or not. How many women have children and then the men leave them for other women and don’t get help raising that child, too many. Women should not to be forced to carry a pregnancy she doesn’t want regardless of her reason. The decision and outcomes are between the woman, the doctor and God, thankfully men’s opinion is part of the equation.

      1. oldtack January 30, 2016

        It was my opinion of Roe v Wade. It opened a lot of doors that the law givers didn’t foresee. Freedom of Speech give everyone an opportunity to voice their opinion just as you have done when you wrote your objection to my post.. Long story short. This woman and I became friends in later years. She had been married and had children. and grandchildren. Just before Christmas one year her car hit the back of a slow moving truck on the interstate flipped over, and caught fire. She suffered extensive burns and died shortly after being airlifted to a Burn Center. She was a good person and a close friend. I didn’t judge her – I had my opinion laos defended her right under law to take the action she did at the time.

        1. Polana January 30, 2016

          At some point, she become a mother and grandmother but God did not forget what she did and she burned in hell.
          Justice served. Like the Bible say eye for an eye or you live by a sword you die by a sword.
          Roe Vs Wade opened hell for the unborn. Now most women use this as a legality to take innocent life. Ignorance is a bliss.

          1. oldtack January 30, 2016

            You have your own interpretation of GOD and the HOLY SCRIPTURES. do you not?

            Do yourself a good favor for your personal edification.

            If you are of the Christian Faith, Take the New Testament and read it in it’s entirety as you would a good best seller book..
            Don’t handpick through it in search of isolated verses that support your beliefs. Read it in it’s entirety.That is a difficult task if you do it with the King James Version in 17th century English but it can be done. Or, use a modern revised version. According to the teachings of Jesus we are no longer under the Law but under Grace and mercy through the blood of Christ that was shed on the Cross..
            One thing you will find there is “There is but one JUDGE. And guess what -YOU are not that Judge. You will also find “Judge not that you be not judged.
            As to her faith you have absolutely no right to judge this woman for her decisions.
            Would it help if I told you this woman you condemn became a Christian and was a worker in her Church.in her later life? By your beliefs I can only suppose you also condemn Mary Magdaline to hell also?

          2. Polana January 31, 2016

            In one of my Bibles Mary Magdalene was a prostitute but none of them mention she had abortion. Oldest profession in the world.In one even says that she became a wife of Jesus. Pick and choose.
            I don’t judge and I don’t care what happened to people who com mits a crime by taking another life. We have judges to do that and society.I just quoted what most Christians says according to their BIBLE. Where in your Bible says it’s OK to take the unborn life??
            I have seeing so called Christians showing pictures of Jesus holding a bloody baby with words Take my hand not my life, and the same people go out and commit, criticize, call names others because they don’t agree w/their political view.
            I am bombarded with emails from all political runners for a vote and donation ( no clue how they got my email) I don’t donate to ANY PARTY and I VOTE ON ISSUES not Party.
            I vote on the person who is close to my believes not the one that quotes the Bible verses. I am Catholic but I don’t go to church to listen to their preaching while some have children, molest them and cover up. I DO BELIEVE IN GOD AND HIS JUSTICE.
            GOD doesn’t talk to me he ONLY TALKS TO REPUBLICANS
            AND EVANGELICANS, FALWELL’s, GRAHAMS, SWAGGARTS, Kentucky Clerks and ask for donation so they can live a nice and comfortable life and TELL U that GOd will punish U.
            Sorry to say but 80 % of U believe this BS. AMEN

          3. MerryMarjie January 30, 2016

            If it gives you comfort to think that a woman burned in hell for an abortion, so be it. She didn’t, of course, and the accident was not an indictment on her lifestyle, but you should cling to your bible and ignore the real world as it is now because that has served you so well in your life, I’m sure.

          4. Cloudherder January 31, 2016

            Hell? LOL!

          5. Polana January 31, 2016

            I have 6 versions of Bibles and to pick and choose. I DON’T BELIEVE IN BIBLE. I live in 21 century, And I believe in prevention of Life but not taking a life. So stone me. With today technology, availability of contraception etc and common sense there would be no need to abort. RESPONSIBILITY AND RESPECT FOR ANY LIFE WILL END ALL.
            If there is hell or heaven – NOBODY came from either side to tell U that. But I do BELIEVE in life – My mother gave me the chance 66 yrs ago and world was different then. When I was young and started dating, her words – Be smart, be kind and respect yourself. When U apply all these 3 U will have no problem in life. AND I DON’T.
            I have neighbors who go to Bible study every Wed. and they are the worst Christians on the face of the earth . Hypocrites.

    2. elw January 30, 2016

      You are being very disingenuous, calling an employee a “play girl” and following gossip about her is called stalking and talking about something that happen 36 years ago is rather strange. What other people do is none of your business and nothing that woman did was illegal. I really think it is time for you the forget and forgive. I would say that if the only abortion story you have is 36 years old you are lucky; I could tell many stories about young women that had real and heart felt reason’s to abort their pregnancies that are not based on my personal opinion or gossip, but I do not because they are not my stories to tell.

      1. BillP January 30, 2016

        You do notice that anytime a Republican or Conservative male politician admits that he has done something wrong (usually cheating on his wife) he is offered a 2nd chance or in the case of Newt Gingrich a 3rd chance.

        1. elw January 30, 2016

          What I notice most that rather than just admit that something wrong was done, Conservative start talking about when some Liberal did as if that makes it OK for their guy to do the same thing.

          1. BillP January 31, 2016

            You are right, when confronted Conservatives like to divert rather than respond.

      2. oldtack January 30, 2016

        My apologies. I did not intend to sound disingenuous. My point was Roe v Wade as written in law legitimized abortion in about every circumstance. I feel the law should have been written so as to approve abortion with certain restrictions because we are dealing with living organisms. That is personal.opinion to which everyone has a right.

        As for the woman? She rose in the ranks and was Manager of an operation. At 33 she married and had a daughter. We (she, her husband, me and my wife became good ” Company friends”. Tragically, one blustery night in December snow weather she was in a car accident. The car hit the back of a slow moving truck, swerved into the ditch, overturned and caught fire. EMS was on the scene but could not extract her in time to prevent critical burns. She was airlifted to a burn center where she died a few hours later. It was Christmas time and she was going to see her grandchildren. I “loved” this woman as a friend and would never be critical of her as a person because she was a warm loving individual. But I was critical of her choices in her early life concerning abortion because it was legal.

        My wife thought at time in conversation that she regretted her decisions also.

        But – she is deceased and my wife is deceased – and life goes on.

        Again – my apologies if I offended you.

        1. elw January 30, 2016

          Well you are entitled to your opinions. However, in relationship to legal abortion there are restrictions in place about when you can or cannot obtain a legal abortion. The nice about they are based on science not on individual assessment of what is right or wrong. You may think the restrictions that are in place are not enough – but overwhelming number of people in this Country dol and most do not want the laws changed. In this Country the majority wins and nothing is going to change that. Just a word of advice – I would not go around calling someone you considered a good friend a “Party Girl.” Prostitutes are often referred to as “Party Girls.”

          1. oldtack January 30, 2016

            Well – my faux pas. She loved to play pool (for under the table money, she loved to play poker, and all the games in Vegas. She loved dancing and travel. She was ex-military Army. and she loved life and “Parties” wherever. Didn’t know “party girl” had a bad description. She had a child and a divorce before her Army tour and married again in her early thirties and had a another child and at the time of her untimely death in the accident she was a proud grandmother tot 5 grandchildren..

            I didn’t like what she had done but in later years we became very close friends. And – I miss her very much.She was a unique woman that loved life until the end.

          2. elw January 31, 2016

            I have several fun loving friends, who do things I would not, but have proven themselves to be good friends. I figure no one is perfect, including myself. I think you are a good person who should think carefully about how you describe what you are trying to say. You do have the right to change laws that you do not like via legal channels, just like everyone else and did not mean to imply otherwise. The article that started this conversation was about the producers of the Planned parenthood who ended up being indicted because of the laws they broke while doing their “sting operation.” I find that to be justified, and assumed you do not. Perhaps I was wrong about that.

          3. oldtack January 30, 2016

            The decision of the Court on Abortion is like like the recent ruling on same sex marriage. They are now the law just like all laws. I have the right if I choose to accept these laws or disagree with these laws but I do not have the right to flaunt these laws by shooting Doctors or blowing up Clinics as no one has the right to interfere with same sex marriage or wage terror attacks on homosexuals just because they are “different than me”. But everyone has the right to challenge these laws in Court and use the system through the Courts all the way to the Supreme Court to try and affect a repeal or a reversal. Others can pursue that . Have a good evening, truly..

        2. Independent1 January 31, 2016

          What you’re missing totally is that women don’t have or not have abortions based on what the law says. They make that decision based on whether or not they’re in a position to carry a fetus to term. So what Roe vs Wade did wasn’t ‘legalizing abortion’, it gave women a ‘safe place’ to have the abortion they were going to get whether the law where they lived allowed it or not. And together with safe abortion clinics like Planned Parenthood, Roe vs Wade allowed safe abortion clinics to exist that have actually saved hundreds of thousands of lives (fetuses carried to term and women) over the past 50 years or so. Before Roe vs Wade, women dying in botched abortions done in back alleys or warehouses or you name what awful place, was commonplace in the news.

          Planned Parenthood actually counsels women about the pros and cons of having an abortion and actually prevents thousands of abortions that would otherwise take place each year. Because even in places today where idiot Republicans are shutting down PP, women who can afford to travel will simply go to where a safe clinic is; those who can’t afford to travel will either find some quack or attempt an abortion on their own. Anyone who thinks that closing PP clinics is reducing abortions is a very misguided person. The GOP’s efforts are not reducing abortions they are actually increasing them and also increasing the women dying in botched abortions. These people are not pro-life, they are pro-fetus.

  4. bobnstuff January 30, 2016

    Here are some numbers. Misinformation is as great here as in must of the things conservatives support.


  5. Aaron_of_Portsmouth January 30, 2016

    Once again, the perfidy, “black-heartedness”, dishonesty, deception, and other antiChrist-like behavior of the “anti-abortionists” —qualities which the extremists on the Right consider as “virtues beloved by God”—are show-cased by the Right Wing extremist gangsters. Their under-handed techniques are animated by satanic impulses, and yet their self-delusion leads them to think that their behavior is approved by God.

    (The institution of the Clergy bears a lot of responsibility by directly, and indirectly, sending out messages to encourage such criminal acts by the “anti-abortionists”.
    While in parallel, many of that Institution have for centuries engaged in pedophilia.
    What a stark contradiction, and a hypocrisy of epic proportion).

    But, there is a penalty to pay for the malevolent acts they willingly choose to carry out, both in this world and “later”.

    As a rhetorical question, I wonder how they would feel if a fetus with anencephaly or microcephaly were being carried by any of the women of this gangster outfit of “anti-abortionists”? Just a thought.

  6. You should know that “Abortion’


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