Felony charges for anti-abortion activists who filmed “heavily edited” Planned Parenthood videos
Remember back in 2015 when anti-abortion activists in California released a series of manipulated videos trying to discredit Planned Parenthood? Two people behind those tapes were just handed “15 felony counts of violating the privacy of health-care providers by recording confidential information without their consent.”
If you need to jog your memory: As we reported in 2015 after the videos started to be released: “These videos are part of a long-term, concerted campaign to undermine safe and legal abortion care and target abortion providers. Anti-abortion radicals are hurling these false accusations and attacks against Planned Parenthood in an attempt to discredit, harass, and stigmatize women and their doctors.”
Anti-abortion radicals from all over the country used these false videos to call for investigations into Planned Parenthood. In New Mexico, groups like Protest ABQ used the videos to feed “misinformation” to a congressional panel and also called on NM Attorney General Hector Balderas to start investigations based on the falsified videos.
Everyone but the far-right radicals who used these recordings to initiate spurious investigations into abortion providers knew the videos were doctored to falsely portray the doctors and staff of these Planned Parenthood clinics.
Now, the legal system is vindicating those facts.
In announcing the charges against David Robert Daleiden and Sandra Merritt on Tuesday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the duo used manufactured identities and a fictitious bioresearch company to meet medical officials and covertly record the private discussions they initiated.
“The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society,” Becerra said. “We will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations.”
The criminal complaint alleges that on 14 occasions, between October 2013 and July 2015, Daleiden and Merritt filmed people without permission in Los Angeles, San Francisco and El Dorado counties. The activists face a felony count for each person covertly recorded, and an additional felony charge for criminal conspiracy to invade privacy.
The charges mark a major turning point in a case that had drawn national attention from both sides of the abortion debate and led to investigations — but no charges — against Planned Parenthood in 13 states. The secretly recorded conversations dropped during the politically tumultuous summer of 2015, amid a crowded field of Republican presidential contenders, and turned Daleiden into the biggest star of the antiabortion movement. The heavily edited videos attempted to discredit Planned Parenthood, long a target of the right, and galvanized conservatives’ efforts to pull funding from the women’s health organization and other family planning programs.