Anti-Choice Activist Behind Planned Parenthood Smear Campaign Turns Herself In (Updated)

Sandra Merritt was part of the Center for Medical Progress' smear campaign against Planned Parenthood.

Sandra Merritt was part of the Center for Medical Progress' smear campaign against Planned Parenthood. Shutterstock

UPDATE, February 4, 9:28 a.m.: Prosecutors said Wednesday night that Sandra Merritt was offered probation to settle the charge against her, according to ABC News. Merritt did not say whether she’ll take the prosecutors’ offer. Her attorney on Wednesday said, “We look forward to our day in court.”

An indicted abortion rights opponent behind a series of smear videos attacking Planned Parenthood turned herself in to Texas authorities Wednesday, her lawyer told the Washington Post.

Sandra Merritt, along with David Daleiden—the head of anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP)—is charged with tampering with government documents to create fake driver’s licenses. Merritt was released after posting a $2,000 bond, the Post reported. A Wednesday news conference in which Merritt was set to appear was canceled.

Daleiden plans to turn himself in at the Harris County, Texas court on Thursday morning, his attorneys told Rewire in an email statement. Peter Breen, an attorney with the Thomas More Society, said in the email that the charges against Daleiden arelegally and factually baseless.”

Daleiden, whose anti-choice group coordinated with Republican lawmakers who targeted Planned Parenthood funding, is also charged with a misdemeanor count related to the purchase or sale of human organs.

Felony charges filed last week against the abortion foes marked a legal twist over the highly publicized attack videos. A Harris County grand jury tasked with investigating Planned Parenthood instead indicted the two anti-choice activists who covertly recorded videos of the health-care provider and its employees.

CMP began publishing videos in July that featured actors posing as officers of a fake tissue procurement company Daleiden created, as Rewire has reported. The actors in the videos appear to be haggling with top Planned Parenthood officials regarding the cost of purchasing fetal tissue—or, as CMP put it, “baby parts.”

The videos ignited a firestorm across social media, triggering a string of GOP efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. Attacks against abortion providers followed the release of CMP’s videos. Texas Republicans Gov. Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called for the Harris County District Attorney’s office to begin a criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast after CMP released its fifth video in August.

CMP released another video Wednesday. Daleiden struck a note of defiance in announcing it.

“The new video released today shows that no amount of half-baked barratry can conceal Planned Parenthood’s barbaric harvesting and profiting off baby body parts,” Daleiden said in an email statement. “Planned Parenthood’s self-interested political maneuvers will never silence free speech or the citizen press.”

Imani Gandy contributed to this report.