Anti-abortion activists indicted in Texas for Planned Parenthood video

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Grand Jury Indicts Leader Behind Planned Parenthood Videos

Two anti-abortion activists behind the filming of videos on fetal tissue procurement by Planned Parenthood were indicted by a Texas grand jury on Monday, while clearing the women's health group of any wrong-doing.

The videos released last summer led Texas and other Republican-controlled states to try to halt funding for local Planned Parenthood operations, with Republicans in the U.S. Congress also pushing for a funding cut.

The grand jury reviewed the case for more than two months and its decision was a result of a probe launched last year under Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, who accused Planned Parenthood of the "gruesome harvesting of baby body parts."

"After a lengthy and thorough investigation by the Harris County District Attorney's Office, the Texas Rangers, and the Houston Police Department, a Harris County grand jury took no action Monday against Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast," the Harris County District Attorney's office said in a statement.


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Planned Parenthood has denied the accusation and called the probe politically motivated.

David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt were indicted by the grand jury for tampering with a governmental record, said prosecutors for the county in which Houston is located. The felony charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

The two were involved in covert videos last year in which a Planned Parenthood official discussed the procurement of fetal tissue.

Daleiden, leader of the Center for Medical Progress that released the videos, was also charged with violating a prohibition on the purchase and sale of human organs, a misdemeanor, the Harris County District Attorney said.

See images of protests for and against Planned Parenthood:

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Anti-abortion activists indicted in Texas for Planned Parenthood video
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 21: Right to Life advocate Linda Heilman prays during a sit-in in front of a proposed Planned Parenthood location while demonstrating the group's opposition to congressional funding of Planned Parenthood on September 21, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Right to Life groups who took part in the protest are also calling on Pope Francis to 'address the pro-life issue and the defunding of Planned Parenthood' when he addresses Congress on September 24. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Planned Parenthood supporters rally for women's access to reproductive health care on ``National Pink Out Day'' at Los Angeles City Hall, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Planned Parenthood supporters rally for women's access to reproductive health care on ``National Pink Out Day'' at Los Angeles City Hall, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 21: Right to Life advocate Linda Heilman (L) prays during a sit-in in front of a proposed Planned Parenthood location while demonstrating the group's opposition to congressional funding of Planned Parenthood on September 21, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Right to Life groups who took part in the protest are also calling on Pope Francis to 'address the pro-life issue and the defunding of Planned Parenthood' when he addresses Congress on September 24. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 21: Right to Life advocates block 4th St. N.E. during a sit-in in front of a proposed Planned Parenthood location while demonstrating the group's opposition to congressional funding of Planned Parenthood on September 21, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Right to Life groups who took part in the protest are also calling on Pope Francis to 'address the pro-life issue and the defunding of Planned Parenthood' when he addresses Congress on September 24. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 16: Protesters hold signs protesting Planned Parenthood in front of the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill September 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition urged the Republican leadership not to give taxpayer funding to Planned Parenthood. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 28: Anti-abortion activists hold a rally opposing federal funding for Planned Parenthood in front of the U.S. Capitol July 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/Getty Images)
Opponents and supporters of Planned Parenthood demonstrate Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Philadelphia. Anti-abortion activists are calling for an end to government funding for the nonprofit reproductive services organization. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Opponents and supporters of Planned Parenthood demonstrate Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Philadelphia. Anti-abortion activists are calling for an end to government funding for the nonprofit reproductive services organization. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Erica Canaut, center, cheers as she and other anti-abortion activists rally on the steps of the Texas Capitol to condemn the use in medical research of tissue samples obtained from aborted fetuses, Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Anti-abortion activists demonstrate near a Planned Parenthood clinic Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Philadelphia. The protestors are calling for an end to government funding for the nonprofit reproductive services organization. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
An opponent and supporter of Planned Parenthood demonstrate Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Philadelphia. Anti-abortion activists are calling for an end to government funding for the nonprofit reproductive services organization. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Erica Canaut, center, cheers as she and other anti-abortion activists rally on the steps of the Texas Capitol to condemn the use in medical research of tissue samples obtained from aborted fetuses, Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Kathy Calver adjusts signs she placed on her shoes as she and other anti-abortion activists rally on the steps of the Texas Capitol to condemn the use in medical research of tissue samples obtained from aborted fetuses, Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 28: Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson attends a anti-abortion rally opposing federal funding for Planned Parenthood in front of the U.S. Capitol July 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. Planned Parenthood faces mounting criticism amid the release of videos by a pro-life group and demands to vote in the Senate to stop funding. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/Getty Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 25: Director of Planned Parenthood of Utah Karrie Galloway speaks during Sex, Politics And Film Hosted By Lena Dunham And Planned Parenthood Action Fund - 2015 Park City at Wahso Asian Grill on January 25, 2015 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Sonia Recchia/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 28: Anti-abortion activists hold a rally opposing federal funding for Planned Parenthood in front of the U.S. Capitol on July 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) announced a Senate deal to vote on legislation to defund Planned Parenthood before the Senate goes into recess in August. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 11: Women hold up signs during a women's pro-choice rally on Capitol Hill, July 11, 2013 in Washington, DC. The rally was hosted by Planned Parenthood Federation of America to urge Congress against passing any legislation to limit access to safe and legal abortion. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 11: Women hold up signs during a women's pro-choice rally on Capitol Hill, July 11, 2013 in Washington, DC. The rally was hosted by Planned Parenthood Federation of America to urge Congress against passing any legislation to limit access to safe and legal abortion. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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There were no details released on the allegations against them.

"I respect their decision on this difficult case," Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said of the grand jury.

The videos purported to show Planned Parenthood officials trying to negotiate prices for aborted fetal tissue. Under federal law, donated human fetal tissue may be used for research, but profiting from its sale is prohibited.

"These people broke the law to spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood in order to advance their extreme anti-abortion political agenda," said Eric Ferrero, vice president of Communications for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

It is unclear what triggered the surprise indictments during the grand jury's closed-door proceedings, said David Sklansky, faculty co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center and a professor at Stanford Law School.

"It would be quite unusual for the grand jury to change direction without the cooperation and approval of the prosecutor," Sklansky said. "But pretty much everything associated with this case seems unusual."

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee weighed in, saying in a statement: "It's a sick day in America when our government punishes those who expose evil with a smartphone - while accommodating those who perform it with a scalpel."

Texas leaders said they would not back down on their probe.

Arkansas and Louisiana, two neighboring states that have launched similar moves to cut state Medicaid funding after the videos, have been on the losing end of federal lawsuits, with judges blocking their attempts to halt funds.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Additional reporting by Jim Christie in San Francisco; Editing by Matthew Lewis, Bernard Orr)


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