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US grand jury charges anti-abortion advocates

A Texas court has cleared Planned Parenthood of misconduct over videos purporting to show employees selling human tissue for profit. The makers of the footage have instead been charged with felony record tampering.

A Texas grand jury found women’s health care provider Planned Parenthood innocent of wrongdoing late Monday over a series of undercover footage about the handling of fetal tissue. Instead, the jury indicted the anti-abortion activists involved in making the videos.

"We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast," said District Attorney Devon Anderson, referring to the Houston clinic referenced in the videos.

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

The footage, made by pro-life supporters David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, alleges that Planned Parenthood clinics, only some of which actually provide abortions, illegally sold fetal tissue to researchers to make a profit.

The video was released by the Center for Medical Progress, a small nonprofit organization run by anti-abortion activists which was founded by Daleiden. It prompted Republicans in Congress to cry foul and launch an unsuccessful attempt to defund Planned Parenthood nationwide, despite the fact that it is already barred from using federal funds to provide abortions.

In November, 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear, Jr. killed three people and wounded nine others at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, allegedly saying

"no more baby parts"

as he was arrested.

Felony charges victory for Planned Parenthood

Daleiden and Merritt have now been charged with the felony of tampering with a governmental record, which has a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

In response to the charges, Daleiden released a statement comparing his group to investigative journalists, insisting they had used "the same undercover techniques" and broken no laws.

"We respect the processes of the Harris County District Attorney, and note that buying fetal tissue requires a seller as well," said Daleiden.

Planned Parenthood hailed the grand jury decision as a victory, and noted that 11 state investigations, often instigated by Republican-controlled legislatures, have already cleared the organization of seeking to profit from the sale of fetal tissue.

es/jil (AP, AFP)

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