An undercover video operation that led to renewed efforts to defund Planned Parenthood has its roots in Kansas, the California activist who engineered the scheme told abortion opponents Tuesday night.
“This place is really special, because this is where a lot of it started almost 20 years ago,” said David Daleiden, who created an uproar in 2015 when he released videos that showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue donation with people posing as representatives from a tissue procurement company.
Daleiden’s company, The Center for Medical Progress, and other abortion opponents said the videos proved that Planned Parenthood was illegally selling the body parts of aborted fetuses. But Planned Parenthood Federation of America denied the allegations, saying the videos were fraudulent and heavily edited.
Daleiden was a featured speaker at the annual Kansans for Life Valentine Banquet at the Ritz Charles Overland Park. Other guests included Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.
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Daleiden told those in attendance that “I would not have even had the idea” to conduct the recent sting operation if not for work previously done in the Kansas City area.
“It’s been an incredible past 18 months, there’s a lot of incredible little victories that have happened and I want to thank all of you, especially here in Kansas, for being part of that,” he said. “I feel that those victories are something that you can claim as your own.”
Daleiden was referring to an incident in the late 1990s in which the Overland Park clinic that is now called Planned Parenthood Great Plains received national attention when a Texas anti-abortion group known for its undercover projects accused the clinic of marketing fetal tissue and organs. The issue led to a congressional investigation, but it was dropped when a key witness admitted that he’d accepted thousands of dollars from an anti-abortion group and wasn’t truthful about some of the things he told the group he’d witnessed. An FBI investigation found no evidence of laws being broken.
The 2015 release of Daleiden’s undercover videos made national headlines and prompted numerous calls for investigations, both at the state and federal level.
Thirteen states — including Kansas and Missouri — conducted investigations and cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing. Eight others declined to investigate.
A special congressional committee formed in response to the videos has uncovered “dark and disturbing” activities that its Republican members think violate the law and women’s rights, according to Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, who sits on the House Select Panel on Infant Lives. Democrats, however, have called the action a “witch hunt” and those on the panel have published their own findings in a report that accuses Republicans of abusing congressional authority during the investigation.
Efforts also are underway by the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood, something abortion opponents have been trying to do for years.
Daleiden and those connected with him also have faced several legal challenges since the videos were released. A lawsuit filed by the National Abortion Federation is on appeal, and a suit filed by a tissue procurement company was recently dismissed.
And in a bizarre case in Texas, a grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood but turned around and charged Daleiden and another woman with tampering with government records, alleging that the two used fake driver’s licenses to conceal their identities during their undercover video operation. Prosecutors dropped those charges last summer, however, citing a legal technicality.
Daleiden told the Kansans for Life gathering that “no Planned Parenthood affiliate anywhere is innocent.”
“They’re all part of this barbaric criminal abortion enterprise that has been built on the broken body parts of aborted children and our unborn brothers and sisters for decades and decades in this country,” he said.
Brownback, who received a standing ovation when introduced, said Kansas has become a major player in the push to repeal Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
“Kansas is a forerunner state; we’ve led the right-to-life movement in this country,” he said, drawing more applause. “I’ve signed 17 pro-life bills since I’ve been governor of the state Kansas.” But there’s more work to be done, he said.
“It’s going to get more difficult,” he said. “It’ll get harder from this point forward, because there is now a path to repeal Roe versus Wade.
“This is a critical time for this nation. We are going to have a shot at this, and we can’t afford not to win. The nation can’t afford for us not to win. We have to fight, and this state has to lead. That’s what we did earlier, and that’s what we’re doing now.”
Brownback said abortion foes need to pray for Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee.
“This is a phenomenal nomination,” he said. “And on life issues, and on religious liberty issues...he is what we need.”
Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said Tuesday’s event reflected poorly on Kansans for Life.
“David Daleiden and his partners spent three years creating a fake company and fake identities, and when they couldn’t find any improper and illegal activity, they made the rest of it up,” she said. “This is just an abysmal reflection of the length that an organization like Kansans for Life will go to discredit Planned Parenthood, which is a high quality, compassionate health care provider, and it really sets a tone that is inappropriate for any dialogue.
“We can understand a difference of opinion, but we cannot tolerate the support, advancement and promotion of someone who has engaged in such extreme behavior to further a political ideology.”