A Texas judge dismissed charges against two anti-abortion activists who made a series of sting videos implicating Planned Parenthood officials in profiting from the sale of fetal tissue.
David Daleiden, 27, and Sandra Merritt, 63, were charged with tampering with government records after a grand jury decided to indict the pair. But on July 26, district judge Brock Thomas ruled the grand jury exceeded its authority, The Guardian reports.
Daleiden and Merritt faced the charges for creating fake driver licenses to dupe Planned Parenthood executives into believing the duo represented a biomedical research company looking to purchase fetal tissue.
But Daleiden and Merritt were actually anti-abortion activists for the Center for Medical Progress, a group that disseminates anti-abortion propaganda.
After Thomas dismissed the charges, Daleiden blasted prosecutors for bringing charges in the first place.
"The dismissal of the bogus, politically motivated charges against [Center for Medical Progress] project lead David Daleiden and investigator Sandra Merritt is a resounding vindication of the First Amendment rights of all citizen journalists, and also a clear warning to any of Planned Parenthood's political cronies who would attack whistleblowers to protect Planned Parenthood from scrutiny," Daleiden said in a statement, according to Fox News.
Medical researchers have used fetal tissue for vaccine development since the 1930s, according to CNN. Today, it's often used for stem cell research and an array of other medical research projects.
Federal law regulates that those performing abortions are not to profit in exchange for the fetal tissues, and the only costs associated should be for reimbursements, such as shipping and storage.
The videos Daleiden and Merritt, disguised as biomedical research executives, released in 2015 showed them discussing a potential purchase of fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood. The videos appeared to show that Planned Parenthood would make money off the deal. Those videos soon went viral and were often cited by conservative politicians as evidence that the country's leading pro-choice advocacy group was grimly profiting off of “dead babies.”
But Daleiden and Merritt were accused of editing the videos in a way that misled viewers about what was discussed.
An unedited video showed that Deborah Nucatola, the senior director of medical services at Planned Parenthood, explicitly said her organization was not seeking profit from selling the tissue, according to Fact Check.
“Affiliates are not looking to make money by doing this,” Nucatola said. “They’re looking to serve their patients and just make it not impact their bottom line.”
That part was edited out of one of the videos Daleiden and Merritt published.