Planned Parenthood indictments show disconnect between politics, reality

Noah M. Horwitz

Recall the brouhaha over Planned Parenthood last autumn? The hype about selling baby parts and murdering newborn babies? Carly Fiorina, who was remarkably at one time a legitimate candidate for President, made waves in a Republican debate by graphically recounting a horrifying video that did not exist as described. The Texan, The New York Times and others noted its mendaciousness, but countless Americans believed that a massive media conspiracy had blinded them to the truth.

Accordingly, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a zealous opponent of abortion rights and Planned Parenthood, asked local prosecutors to investigate the women’s health providers. Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, another Republican, carried out this role.

Last week, a state grand jury absolved Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing. As noted, the videos wherein newborn babies were murdered simply did not exist. Fiorina and the rest of the Republican political class simply fabricated them. Other claims made by the video were only done through the result of deceptive editing. Furthermore, the videographers attempted to entrap Planned Parenthood staff and purposefully misidentified themselves.

The misidentification was a big problem for that aforementioned Harris County grand jury. They indicted the two videographers for tampering with a government record, a second-degree felony.

The legal system ended up reflecting the truths uncovered by the press. All is well, right? Not exactly.

Patrick quickly put out a statement that references the videos. “The horrific nature of these videos will demand scrutiny and investigation,” Patrick said in a press release.

Gov. Greg Abbott, in a statement of his own, was even more standoffish. “Nothing about today’s announcement impacts the state’s ongoing investigation,” he said at the time, noting how concurrent inquiries are still ongoing, including one by Attorney General Ken Paxton. (Paxton is currently under indictment himself.)

It’s frustrating enough that anyone could get caught up in the cognitive dissonance displayed here. But when the leaders of the state are some of the worst offenders, it only compounds the problem.

The right-wing popular press has also published stories purporting to show the grand jury’s decision was made erroneously. And Anderson has received intense blowback from her party’s base, enough so that she felt compelled to produce a short video explaining herself and her role in the legal process.

“Anyone who pays attention knows that I’m pro-life,” Anderson said in her video. “I believe abortion is wrong. But my personal belief does not relieve me of my obligation to follow the law.”

The point is reasonable, but Anderson’s ostensibly former supporters did not feel the same way. They called her a traitor, demanded her resignation and even compared her to those who persecuted the leaders of the civil rights movement.

There’s not an easy solution to this. As newspapers and independent journalism has been largely lobotomized throughout the country, and more and more Americans get their news from Facebook, the problem is only getting worse. But we need to step outside the echo chamber. Anderson is right. Whatever your opinion on abortion, according to the laws of this country and this state, Planned Parenthood did not break the law, but the videographers did.

Horwitz is a government senior from Houston. Follow him on Twitter @NmHorwitz.