Good news: a Houston grand jury convened to investigate their local Planned Parenthood office for possible illegal acts involving fetus parts declined to indict the women's health care service on any charges. Instead, that grand jury indicted the anti-abortionists who accused Planned Parenthood and lied about it via heavily edited video recordings.
Back in August, the Harris County District Attorney’s office announced it would conduct a criminal investigation into a Planned Parenthood clinic located in Houston. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) ordered the investigation after a series of undercover videos released by anti-abortion activists accused the organization of illegally profiting from aborted fetuses. At least one of those videos featured footage of employees at that Houston clinic discussing fetal tissue donation...
The investigation did find that laws were broken — just not by the clinic itself.
Instead, the grand jury indicted two anti-abortion activists behind the videos, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, for tampering with government evidence, which is a felony offense. Daleiden was also indicted for the illegal purchase and sale of human organs, which is a misdemeanor.
Turns out, lying about who you are and what you're doing have consequences. Even if you really aren't harvesting and selling human organs, even lying that you are is a criminal offense. Who knew? It's kind of weird that the illegal sale and purchase of human body parts is only a misdemeanor: in a sane world that would be a felony (you don't want people harvesting your kidneys without permission, would you). Still, minor point.
The activists behind the multi-part video series, who posed as employees at a fake fetal tissue procurement company and secretly filmed their conversations with Planned Parenthood staff, have been widely criticized for the deceptive tactics underpinning the smear campaign.
Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood sued Daleiden’s organization, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), for allegedly engaging in fraud and illegally filming staff who were unaware they were on camera. The National Abortion Federation has also filed a federal lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order to prohibit CMP from making further videos public.
Nonetheless, CMP’s allegations against Planned Parenthood spurred Republican lawmakers across the country to launch investigations into the national women’s health organization on both the state and federal level. Those investigations have so far turned up evidence only that Planned Parenthood’s activities are legal.
When Daleiden and company pulled this stunt, they didn't really care if what they were doing was legal or not. All that mattered to them and to the other anti-abortion jihadists - can't even call them pro-fetus like I used to - was to embarrass Planned Parenthood, and make it easier for the federal and state governments to defund/shut down their offices despite the facts that PP doesn't perform that many abortions and that PP provides a lot of other health support to poor women. Daleiden and his ilk for some reason think it's okay to lie, to deceive, to break the law in their holy war against women's health care.
Turns out it's not okay, is it David?
So while those two anti-abortionists are stewing in criminal court for the next few years, we have a Bad News situation right here in the Sunshine State. The Florida Legislature is considering passing a state law banning all abortions (via Tampa Bay Times):
By an 8-3 vote Monday afternoon, a House criminal justice panel voted to advance the more sweeping legislation (HB 865), which would make performing an abortion or operating an abortion clinic a first-degree felony in Florida, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Just hours earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court reiterated its longstanding ruling affirming women's right to the procedure...
"The Legislature finds that all human life comes from the Creator, has an inherent value that cannot be quantified by man, and begins at the earliest biological development of a fertilized human egg," the bill says.
It goes on to say that "personal liberty is not a license to kill or otherwise destroy any form of human life," and that the state has an interest in stopping abortions, unless the safety of the mother is in question.
It's likely that Van Zant's proposal, if passed by the Legislature, would lead to lawsuits citing the Supreme Court's 1973 ruling in Roe vs. Wade. That became even more likely Monday morning after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned an abortion ban in North Dakota.
It's interesting to note this Republican-led legislature is so concerned with stopping "to kill or otherwise destroy any form of human life" and would turn right around and pass statutes allowing the goddamn death penalty.
It's horrifying to note that this bill clearly reflects religious intent - use of the word "Creator" - and violates Section 3 of the state's constitution... not to mention violates the federal First Amendment, both of which state "There shall be no law respecting the establishment of religion."
It's unsettling because this bill is coming up at a contentious moment: an election year. Normally we don't see controversial or confrontational legislation like this in election time - because none of the incumbents want to rock any boats - but this is different. This bill is going to be a litmus test, I guarantee it: the Far Right people in the state Legislature are going to see who among their ranks will stand up for this bill or try to block it before it goes too far.
And this becomes a problem because we're at the point in the Republican Party at all levels - federal and state - where the wingnuts are finally going to force the issue about their elected officials being on THEIR side or not. 'Cause what will happen is any Republican who votes against this No-Abortion bill will find him/herself facing a primary challenger. The deadline to file is May 23rd, four months away.
At the state level, facing a general election challenge tends to be a foregone conclusion because the gerrymandered district favors the incumbent, and indeed over 30 percent of them weren't even challenged in 2014. However, primaries can't be treated that way: the odds of losing to a wingnut challenger in an especially deep-Red district are pretty good especially if you're caught doing something the Far Right would hate you for doing.
There's a good chance a lot of the Republican Florida legislators will back this bill, to the shame and horror of our entire state, just so they can avoid a primary challenge from someone wing-nuttier than they. The legislators will likely convince themselves that the courts will overturn them anyway, so they'll view it as win-win ("See, I voted against abortion but them damn librul courts stopped us again!").
And the odds of the courts shutting this bill down are near-certain. The Supreme Court just rejected two harsh anti-abortion bills. Florida's bill goes so far against not only Roe but also Casey that it won't even find any friends at the Appellate level.
But this won't be win-win. The wingnuts will not be appeased on this - some might go ahead and primary on candidates anyway. Worse, passing such a blatant anti-abortion bill like this will anger up the majority of Americans who don't have a problem with abortion at all.
Here's why abortion is not a simple cut-and-dried matter. While a majority of Americans don't like abortion and will say they would never consider it, there's still a majority of Americans who realize there is a need for abortion in certain cases. You will always hear people accepting the exceptions for rape, incest, and where the life of the mother is threatened (because pregnancy is NOT 100 percent safe and easy).
And yet the Far Right ignores that, risking the wrath of voters who would otherwise not be bothered to pay attention on other concerns. They can't consider it: being absolutists who believe in All or Nothing to Win, they can't conceive or accept the nuance of compromising between the extremes on abortion.
It used to be the politicians would talk the talk but not walk the walk on this, knowing if they go too far they risk the ire of the pro-choice voters who would usually tune out of the mudslinging mess of modern politics. That is no longer the case: in red state after red state, the Far Right has been making access to abortion services tougher if not impossible for poor women to find. Pressing to see where the line is that can't be crossed... and crossing it anyways because they think themselves safe behind gerrymanders and voter disinterest.
But if they do this, if they succeed in pushing such bills that harm women's health like this, even when the courts knock this bill down the retribution against the Far Right is going to be swift. Women voters and pro-choice voters will show up and will vote and will drive out the anti-abortion politicians wherever they can. They did that against a couple of would-be Senator candidates in 2012, remember?
There's more than enough time, after all, for pro-choice candidates to sign up for the Democratic nominations in those state districts. Even the gerrymandered ones, which will still have a lot of angry women and upset pro-choice moderates looking for THEIR moment to vote to THEIR needs. It's about damn time they did anyway.
Get more candidates running for state offices, people. And get the damn vote out.