Earlier this week, California prosecutors filed felony charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, who, in 2015, released fraudulent videos targeting Planned Parenthood. While this is good news, it in no way undoes the harm caused by these dishonest videos which prompted extremist politicians to malign and harm Planned Parenthood clinics and other women’s health care providers.
Videos Built on Lies
Daleiden and Merritt are charged with 14 counts of filming a person without their consent and one count of conspiracy to invade privacy. According to an affidavit filed in San Francisco, they used a fake California driver’s license and made up a medical research company to gain access to the National Abortion Federation 2014 conference. Their attendance at this conference allowed them to secretly film abortion providers and gain access to abortion clinics. They then heavily edited the videos they took to create a made up story about Planned Parenthood clinics selling fetal tissue.
The charges filed this week underscore just how dishonest Daleiden and Merritt were. They used fraudulent means to gain access to health care providers, secretly videotaped those providers, gained entry to abortion clinics under false pretenses, secretly filmed those clinics, and then pieced their videos together with unrelated videos and images to create a false narrative about abortion clinics. Their behavior was reprehensible and illegal—hopefully, some justice will be served.
The Damage Has Been Done
Unfortunately, no matter what happens to Daleiden and Merritt they have already done plenty of damage. Thirteen states investigated Planned Parenthood and, not surprisingly, found no evidence of wrong doing. But these investigations took up valuable resources and time that would have been better spent providing health care services to women. States also used these videos as justification for trying to cut off Planned Parenthood’s funding, which would leave individuals without necessary preventive care. Although many of these efforts were blocked in the courts, that doesn’t mean the threats to Planned Parenthood are over. In fact, just today, Vice President Pence, who, when he was in Congress lead efforts to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate to overturn an Obama Administration rule that made clear that states could not deny federal family planning funds to providers, like Planned Parenthood clinics, for reasons unrelated to the quality of care.
Pence’s vote, like the videos, have one goal in common—make it harder for women to have an abortion. They may dress their rhetoric up in the language of concern and pretend they care about women, but in reality, all they are doing is keeping women from getting the health care they need. And it’s not just abortion—when women’s health providers like Planned Parenthood come under attack so do services like cancer screenings and STI treatment and prevention.
We can’t let extremist lies like those spread by Daleiden and Merritt win the day. As Daleiden and Merritt face their day in court, we need to spread the word—women deserve access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion, contraception, and health screenings. We won’t stand for anything less and we won’t let the lies and misinformation of these two frauds keep women from the health care they need.