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A Win for Reproductive Rights in Texas

A grand jury in Texas investigating Planned Parenthood decided instead to indict two anti-abortion activists for wrongdoing.
(Photo: Jana Birchum/Getty Images)

(Photo: Jana Birchum/Getty Images)

Yesterday, a Texas grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing after allegations of misconduct surfaced against the health services group last year. The grand jury instead indicted two anti-abortion activists from the Center for Medical Progress—the organization responsible for a widely circulated video that suggested Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue. The New York Times reports that David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt were indicted for tampering with a governmental record—a felony charge—and Daleiden faces an additional misdemeanor charge related to purchasing human organs.

Texas is just one of many states that began investigating the organization after the Center for Medical Progress video went viral. So far, none have found any evidence of truth to the video's suggestion that the organization was selling fetal tissue. But the videos still inspired some state attorneys to go after Planned Parenthood for allegedly violating other state laws. There are countless reasons why attacking the reproductive health organization is a short-sighted and senseless move:

  • Targeting Planned Parenthood for providing abortion services is like trying to shut down every Starbucks location because you don't like the decaf teas they stock; in 2014, for example, only three percent of the reproductive care services performed at the organization's clinics were for abortions.
  • Defunding Planned Parenthood would disproportionately affect low-income Americans; roughly a third of women who rely on publicly funded clinics for contraception go through Planned Parenthood.
  • Planned Parenthood services save the government money. Every dollar spent on family planning services saves the government approximately five dollars down the line. In other words, investing more in contraception prevents the government from having to shell out the higher costs associated with supporting families born of unintended pregnancies.
  • It's not just about women's reproductive rights. Planned Parenthood provides sexual health services to men as well as women—a hugely important provision given that men are already significantly less likely than women to regularly see a doctor.

Unfortunately, even though Planned Parenthood has been cleared of any wrongdoing, the damage to the organization's reputation may be harder to undo. The video sting is a classic case of implied misinformation, according to our own Tom Jacobs.

"[T]he prominent play the video received certainly implied that something nefarious was transpiring," Jacobs wrote in September. "And, according to a troubling new study, that sort of journalism—in which key facts are uncertain, leaving readers or viewers to connect the dots—may inspire people to create their own inaccurate narratives, which are particularly resistant to later revision."

But if more people can follow the Supreme Court's lead here and transcend their psychological biases, the decision could put an end to pro-life activists using false allegations against Planned Parenthood to lobby the government to defund the health-care organization.