The California-based founder of the Center for Medical Progress accepted the award at Legatus’ annual Summit, just days after a Texas court indicted him on second-degree felony charges of tampering with government documents and Daleiden a misdemeanor charge of attempting to buy human tissue.
The Center’s explosive videos alleged proof of an illegal trade in fetal tissue, and a criminal investigation was launched in Houston at the behest of Texas’ pro-life lieutenant governor, led by a prosecutor that described herself as a “proud, pro-life Texan.”
After several months of investigating, a Harris County grand jury found probable cause that a crime had been committed — but by the undercover investigators, not Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.
University of Notre Dame law professor Gerald Bradley, who served a number of years as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan, told the National Catholic Register that grand jurors “can request to be instructed on charges which may not have been contemplated going in.”
“If the evidence in front of the grand jury would be sufficient to support those requested charges, I think a prosecutor should give them,” he told the Register in an email.
However, he said there is a “very good chance” that the charges “could be dismissed by the court upon defendants’ motion, on the ground that it is a selective prosecution.”
Legatus’ pro-life leaders discuss the undercover videos that could very well mean the end of Planned Parenthood
When a little-known pro-life group began releasing videos about Planned Parenthood in mid-July, public outrage was immediate and ferocious.
The shocking undercover videos — 10 so far — show cavalier conversations among high-level officials at Planned Parenthood and various biotech companies deliberating over the sale of baby body parts as though they were dealing used cars. The videos displayed gruesome images of dismembered babies, ready to be sold for scientific research. Federal law explicitly prohibits the sale of aborted children and their parts.
The videos’ impact has been massive.
“These videos have allowed the truth to break through for millions of Americans,” said Jason Scott Jones, a human rights activist, filmmaker and author.
Jason Scott Jones
“The challenge we have as Catholics is communicating two truths — through the ideological filter of the Culture of Death — to people in a way they can understand,” said Jones, an At Large member of Legatus.
“First is the truth of abortion — what it really is. Most people refuse to accept the truth about abortion because if they did, they could no longer tolerate abortion,” he explained. “The other truth we’re challenged to communicate is the truth of the human person — that we have an inherent beauty, dignity and worth. That dignity demands protection from violence.”
Jones lauds the work of David Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), who worked for years on the covert video project. “He has communicated to millions of Americans both of those truths,” Jones said.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, said the videos brought to mind other horrors that have been committed against human beings throughout history. “I think it was the sheer brutality and lack of humanity of the clinicians which shocked me the most,” she said.
The videos have re-energized the U.S. pro-life movement like nothing else in the past few decades.
“There is a renewed resolve and focus now,” said Dannenfelser, a member of Legatus’ Northern Virginia Chapter. “But there is a caveat: We do not have a president who will defund Planned Parenthood. This gives us more energy to try to elect a pro-life president that will.”
Prior to the videos’ release, pro-life legislators introduced the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortion of children after 20 weeks’ gestation. On May 13, the House passed the bill 242-184. The Senate has yet to vote on the measure.
“The timing of these videos has been miraculous,” said Dannenfelser. “They have been very helpful to legislative strategy on the Hill. I believe it has been the Holy Spirit at work.”
The videos’ release prompted an immediate Senate vote to defund Planned Parenthood of the more than $528 million it receives from the federal government every year. The Aug. 4 vote —53 to 46 to defund — fell just short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a presidential veto. Still, pro-lifers claim victory.
“Defunding Planned Parenthood is within reach,” said Lila Rose, president of the pro-life organization Live Action. “The last vote we had in the Senate to defund Planned Parenthood was in 2011. Two Democrats stood up in the Senate this time and voted against Planned Parenthood.”
In a 241-187 vote on Sept. 18, the House of Representatives voted to freeze funding for Planned Parenthood for one year. The Senate is expected to take up the bill soon.
Another immediate result of the undercover videos has been state and federal investigations throughout the country. Four congressional committees have launched investigations into Planned Parenthood, as have 12 states. Five states revoked the abortion giant’s funding.
The CMP videos also seem to have loosened any fears that Republican presidential candidates may have had about speaking on abortion. During the first two GOP debates, Republican candidates spoke forcefully about Planned Parenthood and the evil of abortion.
“It’s not embarrassing anymore to be pro-life,” said Kathleen Eaton Bravo, president of Obria Medical Clinics and a member of Legatus’ Orange Coast Chapter. “We have the most pro-life generation ever now.”
In the 1990s, it was rare for mainstream journalists to cover abortion stories without an overtly pro-abortion bias. Today, Bravo said, the media is forced to cover the issue more fairly considering that half the country consistently identifies as pro-life.
Opening the debate
Kathleen Eaton Bravo
The CMP videos also proved that social media has given the pro-life movement an edge over mainstream news outlets who opt not to cover stories that damage the abortion industry.
“YouTube and social media have changed everything when it comes to getting the truth out,” said Rose. “Before this, abortion-friendly reporters at NBC, CBS or ABC could block news stories. This doesn’t matter anymore.”
In other words, pro-life news reaches the public more often than not through social media or pro-life news sources. Rose’s group Live Action — which has also recorded undercover videos at Planned Parenthood — has over 1 million Facebook followers. Some of Live Action’s videos have been viewed by over 1 million people and have prompted congressional investigations.
The CMP videos, Bravo said, are giving abortion-minded women something to think about.
“These videos have shown us the dark side of abortion,” said Bravo. “They give us an understanding of what that ‘choice’ means. Women are now saying, ‘If choice means what is happening in these videos, well that is horrific.’”
Pro-life activists hope these videos will wake up a sleeping giant — those who are pro-life but not involved. Involvement can mean prayer, letter writing or sharing information. It can also mean donating funds to groups like Obria Medical Clinics, which help women choose life, or to groups like the Susan B. Anthony List, which help elect pro-life candidates.
The pro-life community also hopes these videos will ultimately bring down Planned Parenthood. But, Dannenfelser said, “When you work in Washington, you can never be sure that anything is inevitable.”
But the CMP videos have reached millions who had never given abortion a second thought, she said. “And it has reached the pro-life ‘choir’ — those whose hearts needed to be renewed.”
Bravo said she believes the tide is turning in the right direction.
“I think these videos are the beginning of the end of the dark days of abortion,” said Bravo. “People are finally seeing the profound evil and arrogance that Planned Parenthood has become.”
“These videos built on the work begun by Mark Crutcher [pro-life activist and founder of Life Dynamics] and Lila Rose,” who both did undercover video work against the abortion industry, Jones said.
“The videos delivered what I believe is the mortal wound to Planned Parenthood. How long it will stagger to the grave is anyone’s guess, but when Planned Parenthood falls, the autopsy will reveal that these videos are the wound that did it in.”
SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.