Winners and losers in American justice system

interview-david-daleiden-r
Indicted: David R. Daleiden

A grand jury in Houston, Texas, that was investigating accusations against Planned Parenthood related to the sale of human organs and body parts of aborted babies has instead indicted two abortion opponents who made undercover videos of the organization.

All this sounds ominously reminiscent of the legal system which America and the world have been watching in operation over he past two months in Netflix’s Making a Murderer. As nearly everyone in the world now knows, Steven Avery spent 18 years in jail fro a crime he did not commit. Then, when he tried to get compensation for this miscarriage of justice from those responsible he found himself charged and convicted for murder by the same agencies which put him away in the first case.

The haunting thought at the back of the mind of anyone with a sense of justice and respect for due process who watched that series was “If it happened in Wisconsin, why would we think that it might not happen elsewhere.”

Well, maybe here it is again. David R. Daleiden will need a very good lawyer the escape the clutches of this system about which Bob Dylan sang over 40 years ago in outrage about what he saw as the fitted-out conviction of the boxer, Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter.

Couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land
Where justice is a game.

The New York Times reports on the indictment today:

Prosecutors in Harris County said one of the leaders of the Center for Medical Progress — an anti-abortion group that made secretly recorded videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials trying to illegally profit from the sale of fetal tissue — had been indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record, a felony, and on a misdemeanor charge related to purchasing human organs.

That leader, David R. Daleiden, 27, the director of the center, had posed as a biotechnology representative to infiltrate Planned Parenthood affiliates and surreptitiously record his efforts to procure tissue for research. Another center employee, Sandra S. Merritt, 62, was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record.

The record-tampering charges accused Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt of making and presenting fake California driver’s licenses, with the intent to defraud, for their April meeting at Planned Parenthood in Houston.

Abortion opponents claimed that the videos, which were released starting in July, revealed that Planned Parenthood was engaged in the illegal sale of body parts — a charge that the organization has denied and that has not been supported in numerous congressional and state investigations triggered by the release of the videos.

The district attorney, Ms. Devon Anderson, said in a statement yesterday that grand jurors had cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing. She declined to provide details about the case against Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt, including any documents or evidence presented to the grand jury, citing state law on the secrecy of grand jury proceedings.

“As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us,” Ms. Anderson said. Which is more or less exactly what the prosecutors in the case of Steven Avery said in Making a Murderer.

But, no more than Steven Avery did, Mr. Daleiden is not taking this lying down. He issued a statement on Monday night, pointing out that the organization which exposed the practices of Planned Parenthood, the Center for Medical Progress, “uses the same undercover techniques that investigative journalists have used for decades in exercising our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press, and follows all applicable laws. We respect the processes of the Harris County district attorney, and note that buying fetal tissue requires a seller as well. Planned Parenthood still cannot deny the admissions from their leadership about fetal organ sales captured on video for all the world to see.”

Nor are the pro-life politicians and officials of the State of Texas wilting either. The Times report tells us that Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said on Monday that the inspector general of the state’s Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas attorney general’s office will continue investigating Planned Parenthood’s actions.

“Nothing about today’s announcement in Harris County impacts the state’s ongoing investigation,” Mr. Abbott said in a statement. “The State of Texas will continue to protect life, and I will continue to support legislation prohibiting the sale or transfer of fetal tissue.”

The state attorney general, Ken Paxton, said in a statement: “The fact remains that the videos exposed the horrific nature of abortion and the shameful disregard for human life of the abortion industry. The state’s investigation of Planned Parenthood is ongoing.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, in a statement on Monday, played down the significance of the indictment, saying the recent anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision was “a solid reminder of the over 50 million innocent lives that have been lost to abortions.”
He added, “I will never be deterred from standing up to fight to protect the unborn.”

For the pro-life activists in America and further afield the situation will to some extent be viewed as a win-win scenario. The aberration of selling the body parts of human beings killed in their mothers wombs in a manner confessed here will be in the public eye even more than it has been. The American justice system will also remain in the spotlight as will anyone who tries to play it like a game, fast and loose.

Reliving the nightmare of Mary Shelly

For many this will be just one more reason to throw Christians – and particularly Catholics – to the lions again.

Planned Parenthood, the world’s leading abortion provider and promoter, has been put on the back foot again. Its political wing, the US Democratic Party, is hoping against hope that the storm created by David Daleiden will somehow be defused before it gains too much traction in the run-in to next year’s big election. Whether it does or doesn’t we can still anticipate that it will harden their resolve to continue moving conscientious Christians to the margins of the public square.

Daleiden is the man behind  the abortion provider’s exposure as a purveyor of body parts of aborted babies. His undercover videos have appeared online showing a Planned Parenthood official in California discussing, over what looked like a very nice lunch, the price of providing bits of babies’ bodies to a man and woman posing as buyers from a firm that procures tissue for medical researchers.
The New York Times and other fellow travelers, like the Democrats and the abortion lobby, cannot ignore the story. Today the Times carried a useful interview with Daleiden – the third item on its online headlines newsletter this morning. It could be described as even handed but between the lines I think you get a sense that they were looking for the story which might derail Daleiden and his activist group’s campaign. They didn’t get it.
In the videos the man off-camera is Daleiden. And, he said in an interview with the Times, more episodes are coming. Planned Parenthood’s estimates that he must have “thousands of hours of videotape” from infiltrating its clinics for two and a half years. Daleiden himself reckons he has enough recordings for perhaps a dozen videos that he can release at the rate of one a week for the next few months.
The time frame all but ensures political tumult ahead, according to the paper. “The videos will coincide with the Republican-controlled Congress’s final weeks of work on spending bills needed to finance the government after the Oct. 1 start of the next fiscal year. The first videos have already given impetus to conservatives’ push to hold those bills hostage unless they are amended to eliminate money for Planned Parenthood and other family planning programs. The risk, as in past years, is a government shutdown.”
All that is before we even begin to think of the Presidential election – and what Hilary Clinton is going to say in trying to defend her and Obama’s favourite NGO. Republicans are already shouting about this and Democrats clearly think they can use their interest in the issue against their political rivals and against Daleiden.

“By Boehner and the Republicans leaping into the middle of this, I think they further demonstrate the political nature of the attack,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster. “And as someone who’s done a lot of polling about Planned Parenthood, I feel reasonably confident that Americans, particularly American women, will see this as about politics, not about health care.”

What, we might ask, are politicians for, what is politics about, if they are not going to concern themselves with issues like this. Once again it all comes down to the definition and scope of the term “health care”. For some their duty of care only covers a portion of the population, for others it covers all the human beings living on the planet, before as well as after birth. This simple disagreement is at the root of the clash between two civilizations, a clash which at least matches that between the pagan Roman Empire and embryonic Christian world.
Daleiden’s storm is now gathering force and doing what he always hoped it would do over the past two years as he prepared the ground and put his plan into place. “When you know that you have something powerful, that’s going to shock a lot of consciences,”Daleiden said, it is “natural not to want to keep that under wraps.”
The Times interview tried the ploy of pleading the value to medical research which he might now be jeopardizing. He rejected that, saying, “Most fetal tissue work is real Frankenstein stuff.”
Daleiden said he had been an anti-abortion activist for more than a decade. He formed an anti-abortion group at his high school in Sacramento, a period when he met another young activist named Lila Rose. Until now, Rose had been better known to Planned Parenthood and other abortion-rights advocates for video stings by her group, Live Action. “Lila and I have been friends for many, many years,” Daleiden said.
He attributes his anti-abortion militancy to seeing images of aborted fetuses as a teenager. He is also the child of a crisis pregnancy. His parents, who are now divorced, were juniors in college when his mother became pregnant. He grew up “culturally Catholic,” and does not see himself aws particularly religious. But he now calls Pope Francis “my inspiration,” moved to follow the Pope’s encouragement to reach out to the peripheries and his “emphasis on just being active, on going outside of yourself to accomplish things.” 

All this is indeed a chilling illustration of what Pope Francis reminds us of in his recent encyclical, Laudato Si‘, “our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience.”

There is a tendency to believe that every increase in power means “an increase of ‘progress’ itself”, an advance in “security, usefulness, welfare and vigour; …an assimilation of new values into the stream of culture”,[83] as if reality, goodness and truth automatically flow from technological and economic power as such. The fact is that “contemporary man has not been trained to use power well”,[84] because our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience. Each age tends to have only a meagre awareness of its own limitations. It is possible that we do not grasp the gravity of the challenges now before us. “The risk is growing day by day that man will not use his power as he should”; in effect, “power is never considered in terms of the responsibility of choice which is inherent in freedom” since its “only norms are taken from alleged necessity, from either utility or security”.[85] But human beings are not completely autonomous. Our freedom fades when it is handed over to the blind forces of the unconscious, of immediate needs, of self-interest, and of violence. In this sense, we stand naked and exposed in the face of our ever-increasing power, lacking the wherewithal to control it. We have certain superficial mechanisms, but we cannot claim to have a sound ethics, a culture and spirituality genuinely capable of setting limits and teaching clear-minded self-restraint.

Apart from the immediate horror aroused by the vision of this trade in baby body parts, the related question which it poses and prompts to our consciences is once again that of the problem of men of science who do not see themselves bound by any conscience. If conscience plays no part in the way a scientist goes about his work then all we can expect is to relive the nightmare of that prescient woman, Mary Shelly – and it will be no nightmare. It will be the real world.