The stunning indictment in Texas this week of two pro-life activists from the Center for Medical Progress is a source of merriment among liberals, and of smug front-page coverage by the New York Times. Under the umbrella of CMP, the activists ran a multi-city hidden-camera sting operation against Planned Parenthood that documented how the abortion provider allegedly sold organs from aborted babies, resulting in state investigations and hearings in Congress.
Times reporter Jackie Calmes’ front-page report on Wednesday carefully linked the state indictment to Republican Party prospects, all the better to rub the ruling into the faces of the GOP: “Indictment Deals Blow to G.O.P. Over Planned Parenthood Battle.”
Calmes’s reporting on the hidden-camera investigation has been hostile all along. She has been a fierce defender of the abortion provider and its federal funding, accusing the GOP of “overreach,” while warning of dire consequences for poor women if the clinics were shut down.
On Wednesday she warned, far from the first time, that attacking Planned Parenthood could backfire on Republicans:
A grand jury’s indictment on Monday of two abortion opponents who covertly recorded Planned Parenthood officials is the latest, most startling sign that a Republican campaign against the group has run into trouble.
In a dozen states including Texas, where the grand jury in Houston examined Planned Parenthood at the request of Republican officials but ended up indicting the opponents, various investigations have concluded without finding any wrongdoing by affiliates of the group. Eight states have declined to investigate since videos began surfacing in June alleging that Planned Parenthood illegally sells tissue from aborted fetuses.
In the Republican-led Congress, Speaker John A. Boehner resigned last fall rather than lead a government shutdown to force an end to federal funds for Planned Parenthood. Conservatives’ efforts to defund the group have since failed. Senate leaders increasingly fear that the fight threatens several Republican seats, and with them the party’s majority. Several congressional committees investigating the organization have yet to produce results.
Video from the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, purported to show Planned Parenthood officials trying to illegally profit from the sale of fetal tissue. A leader and another employee of the anti-abortion group were indicted on Monday.
In the presidential race, Republican candidates are competing to condemn Planned Parenthood in an effort to appeal to conservative voters. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a favorite of many evangelical conservatives, has regularly vowed that as president he will order a federal investigation into the group’s practices and has lambasted congressional Republican leaders for timidity. Party strategists worry that such attacks will backfire with the general electorate in November, especially among women, younger voters and political independents.
The paper showed sudden respect for the wisdom of a veteran Republican operative they have long reviled:
Karl Rove, a Republican strategist and a former top adviser to President George W. Bush, has called proponents of shutting down the government to defund Planned Parenthood the “suicide caucus”; party leaders are well aware that Republican attacks on the organization back to the Clinton era have not ended well for Republicans....
Nonpartisan opinion polls suggest Republicans are right to be concerned.
After citing some numbers, Calmes talked to a pollster who had his own strong opinion on abortion:
The attack against Planned Parenthood “has been an abject failure in terms of public opinion,” said Geoff Garin, a pollster for Democrats and for Planned Parenthood.
“Having an extreme anti-abortion group as the source of the videos has been an important factor in undermining their credibility and impact,” he added. “And the Harris County indictments undoubtedly will reinforce that.”
There was also a vengeful lead editorial, “Vindication for Planned Parenthood” that managed to almost completely avoid the word “abortion,” using it only in the negative when describing CMP as an “anti-abortion group.” The bleeding-heart liberals on the editorial page want the book thrown at the two activists.
One after the other, investigations of Planned Parenthood prompted by hidden-camera videos released last summer have found no evidence of wrongdoing. On Monday, a grand jury in Harris County, Tex., went a step further. Though it was convened to investigate Planned Parenthood, it indicted two members of the group that made the videos instead.
The Harris County prosecutor, Devon Anderson, a Republican who was asked by the lieutenant governor, a strident opponent of Planned Parenthood, to open the criminal investigation, said on Monday that the grand jurors had cleared Planned Parenthood of any misconduct.
These efforts threaten to deprive the country’s poorest women of health services they need, including cancer screenings, contraceptive care and sexually transmitted infection testing. In many parts of the country, Planned Parenthood is the only source of contraceptive services for low-income women.
If convicted, Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt face up to 20 years in prison on the felony charge; the misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year. These penalties will not undo the damage the videos have already done to Planned Parenthood and women’s health and reproductive rights. State and federal officials who care about the truth should work to remedy that damage in any way they can.