Opinion: Texas grand jury reintroduces abortion conversation

(Illustration by Savannah Thaemert | The Collegian)

Two anti-abortion activists face up to 20 years in prison for tampering with government records, a Texas grand jury announced on Jan. 25.

Anti-abortion activists David Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress, and Sandra Merritt face up to 20 years in prison because they illegally collected video footage from Planned Parenthood.

The footage “showed people pretending to be from a company called BioMax that procures fetal tissue for research touring the facility,” according to Paul Weber in an article for The Kansas City Star titled “Grand jury indicts activists behind Planned Parenthood videos.”

Daleiden and Merritt are said to have edited the footage to target the handling of fetal tissue in clinics.

The current Planned Parenthood case argues that the footage taken by Daleiden and Merritt was filmed without consent, that they registered false identities with state agencies and conducted their investigation with many illegalities in play, according to Weber’s article.

While the Texas grand jury has changed the course of the court case, some outside perspectives remain set in stone, especially Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s.

“Brownback said the indictments didn’t change his mind about the veracity of videos by an anti-abortion group,” Edward Eveld of The Kansas City Star said in his article titled “Gov. Sam Brownback stands by comments about Planned Parenthood selling ‘baby body parts.'”

“Planned Parenthood’s trafficking of baby body parts is antithetical to our belief in human dignity,” Brownback said in his State of the State, according to Eveld’s article.

When Brownback was asked if he owed Planned Parenthood an apology for assuming they were guilty of their charges, he said, “No, I think they need to stop trafficking baby body parts,” according to Eveld’s article.

At this point, the case has become a he-said-she-said debate, which veers away from the real question: Are the services Planned Parenthood offers OK?

While the services they offer are legal, there are those who believe that some of their services are morally and ethically wrong.

“I went to a Catholic high school that would protest outside of the Planned Parenthood in Kansas City,” Alyssa Bianchino, sophomore in accounting, said. “I was raised to believe that abortion is wrong, but after I graduated I realized that there is more to making the decision than I originally knew.”

Planned Parenthood provides abortions, tests for sexually transmitted diseases, prescribes birth control and sells emergency contraceptives. While abortions may be morally questionable, this list proves that the other services offered can be extremely beneficial to those who may not be able to afford them elsewhere.

Although Manhattan does not have a Planned Parenthood location, the Lafene Health Center does sell emergency contraceptives and can help patients find the resources they need for sexually transmitted disease testing and birth control planning, according to Julie Gibbs, Lafene’s director of Health Promotion.

“I think women having the opportunity to use the services that Planned Parenthood offers is beneficial when used in appropriate ways,” Laura Sellers, sophomore in animal sciences and industry, said. “Despite the controversy that has surfaced from the Texas grand jury case, I support the general stance of Planned Parenthood and think its use can be circumstantially important for each individual woman.”

The abortion and Planned Parenthood conversation has been around for years; however, with the current findings from the Texas grand jury, the dialogue is changing. The disagreements in regards to the ethicality behind the abortion procedure itself remain the same, but the new findings by the Texas grand jury are introducing a new question: Are the anti-abortion activists taking their efforts too far?

On the Planned Parenthood website, part of the organization’s mission statement reads, “Planned Parenthood believes in the fundamental right of each individual, throughout the world, to manage his or her fertility …”

With such an uplifting mission statement, and after speaking with other students, I have a difficult time being completely against Planned Parenthood. On the other hand, the charges against Daleiden and Merritt raise the hairs on my arms. It seems that a line has been crossed, according to the evidence presented by the Texas grand jury. This conversation, however, boils down to the two camps of those who are for and against the services offered by Planned Parenthood and a continuation of the he-said-she-said argument.

If Daleiden and Merritt are found guilty for tampering with the films, I believe they would be taking away from their anti-abortion efforts because the attention would be on their wrongdoings rather than the good they could be offering.

While it is unsure what the final ruling will be, Daleiden spoke with the Associated Press and welcomed the future confrontation with Planned Parenthood, according to Weber’s article.

Hi world! I'm Kaitlyn Cotton. I'm a junior studying English with hopes of going to law school one day. I spend my days writing, reading and working for the Collegian. I have had articles published in the Kansas City Star, the Collegian, and most importantly- my parent's refrigerator.