Abortion Reproductive Rights

California Files Felony Charges Against Anti-Abortion Center for Medical Progress

On Tuesday California filed 15 felony charges against Sandra Merritt and David Daleiden, director of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the anti-abortion group responsible for the discredited videos released last year that falsely accused Planned Parenthood of illegally selling fetal tissue. 14 charges were for unlawfully recording someone without their permission and one count was for conspiracy to invade privacy.

The state claims that Daleiden and his associate Merritt filmed 14 individuals without their consent at meetings across California. “The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society,” said State Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

This illegal filming is also alleged in a pending federal racketeering lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood against CMP in January of 2016. Planned Parenthood alleges that in 2012, Daleiden and his associates, including Operation Rescue leader Troy Newman, concocted a scheme to infiltrate the medical research and reproductive healthcare community in an effort to demonize and allege illegal activity on the part of Planned Parenthood.

In the process, CMP allegedly violated a number of state and federal laws including the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act and the Federal Wiretap Act. In addition to illegally filming members of the medical community without their consent, Daleiden and associates allegedly lied their way into medical conferences, used fake government identifications to gain access to Planned Parenthood facilities and events, and signed confidentiality agreements they did not intend to uphold.

13 state and 3 Congressional investigations have found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Planned Parenthood. A grand jury in Harris County, Texas that was formed to investigate Planned Parenthood over the alleged fetal tissue sales ended up clearing the organization of any wrongdoing, opting instead to criminally indict David Daleiden, director of CMP, for tampering with a governmental record and for purchasing human organs. Those charges against Daleiden and one of his associates were later dropped.

In the wake of the 2015 release of CMP’s fraudulent videos, threats, harassment and acts of violence against abortion providers, which were already high, have skyrocketed. According to the Feminist Majority Foundation’s 2016 National Clinic Violence Survey over 34 percent of clinics reported experiencing the most severe types of threats and violence in the first 6 months of 2016, including death threats, stalking and blocking access to clinics.

The House Select Panel that was created in the wake of the videos’ release to investigate abortion providers found no evidence of wrongdoing after an over year-long inquiry that cost the American taxpayers nearly $1.6 million, stunted life-saving fetal tissue research in labs across the country, and used subpoena power to target, threaten and endanger healthcare providers and biomedical research professionals.

The relationship between David Daleiden and the Republican members of the House Select Panel has been of repeated concern as CMP continues to actively fight releasing the names of any individuals associated with the anti-abortion group, claiming it would be a violation of their First Amendment right to associational privacy.

In December, when the House Select Panel recommended to the attorney general of Texas that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast be investigated for criminally selling fetal tissue, Daleiden was the first person to reveal the new referral on his blog—an hour before it was announced publicly by the Panel or any of its members. An hour Daleiden’s blog post, Panel member Rep. Mia Love took to the House floor to request an additional $800,000 to continue the investigation.

Multiple clinics and tissue procurement agencies stopped facilitating fetal tissue donations because of threats inspired by CMP and the panel investigation. Those forced to testify before the panel have been compared to Nazi war criminals and now fear for their personal safety. Over 46 percent of clinics report having their doctors and staff targeted by anti-abortion extremists directly in the first half of 2016, most frequently using pamphlets like the KILLERS AMONG US leaflets featuring doctor’s photographs and home addresses, as well as the distribution of WANTED style posters.


Media Resources: LA Times 3/28/17; Feminist Majority Foundation 10/4/16, 2/14/17, 12/7/16, 12/2/16.

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