Anti-Planned Parenthood Activist David Daleiden Gets Indicted, But The Anti-Choice Movement Still Feels Like It’s Winning

In an interesting turn of events yesterday, a Texas grand jury that had been convened to investigate Planned Parenthood based on the claims of anti-abortion activist David Daleiden instead indicted Daleiden and a colleague on charges relating to their infiltration of the women’s health care organization.
In a statement responding to the charges, Daleiden called himself an “investigative journalist,” something that he has been doing from the beginning of his project. In reality, Daleiden’s “investigation” was rooted in a tradition of anti-abortion activists attempting to harass and intimidate abortion providers to prevent them from practicing, rather than a genuine effort to uncover the truth. In fact, one of Daleiden’s associates at the radical anti-choice group Operation Rescue, which helped to get his project off the ground, said that Daleiden’s goal going into the project was to “obtain prosecutions” of Planned Parenthood officials.
So far, Daleiden’s attempt to “obtain prosecutions” has come up empty.
But pushing for the prosecution of Planned Parenthood officials was only part of Daleiden’s plan. In a statement following the indictment, Daleiden claimed that the “admissions” of Planned Parenthood were “captured on video for all the world to see.” Never mind that the videos show no such “admissions” of law-breaking. The point of the videos was not just to make a case to law enforcement, but to sway public opinion.
On a large scale, that hasn’t been successful: One poll showed barely a flutter in the public’s views about Planned Parenthood between August and September of last year, in the height of the visibility of Daleiden’s videos. Planned Parenthood’s favorability ratings had already dropped over the last two decades, Gallup found, but mostly among Republicans, a trend that the polling agency attributed to the growing “politicization of Planned Parenthood.”
What Daleiden’s project has done is to galvanize support among those who were already opposed to abortion rights. Protests in front of Planned Parenthood offices, driven by the old guard of the anti-abortion “rescue” movement, expanded and multiplied, with the support of much more visible anti-choice groups. At this year’s March for Life, it was impossible to go five minutes without hearing a mention of Daleiden or his videos, with speaker after speaker saying that their movement finally had winning momentum. In the days leading up to the march, Daleiden crossed the city to speak to protesters holding gruesome signs outside a construction site for a new Planned Parenthood clinic; to talk with Americans United for Life lawyers working on strategies to restrict abortion rights; and to be prayed over by Russell Moore and Jim Daly, evangelical leaders who are trying to put a kinder, gentler face on their movement.
Speakers at nearly every event noted with hope that a bill defunding Planned Parenthood recently made it through a Republican Congress, allowing anti-choice activists to say that all they need now is to elect a president who would sign it.
Now that Daleiden is facing prosecution, he’s in the company of many fellow members of the “rescue” movement, which his work grew out of. Among those who protest outside of clinics, or try to infiltrate them, arrest and jail time for violation of what they see as unjust laws is a badge of honor. At a protest last week in front of a new Planned Parenthood that is being built in Washington, D.C., before Daleiden spoke, one “rescue” movement leader asked who there would be willing to “lay their body in front of the door” or “handcuff yourself to construction equipment” in order to stop the building from opening. Another touted the work of one of Daleiden’s mentors to train “a whole army of David Daleidens” to infiltrate Planned Parenthood clinics throughout the country.
Yesterday’s indictment is unlikely to dissuade these activists, who feel that they are on the cusp of a David-and-Goliath victory. In fact, at events connected to the March for Life last week, speakers expressed hope that a separate lawsuit against Daleiden by Planned Parenthood would instead turn up unflattering information about the women’s health provider and land it in hot water instead. So far, the opposite has been true. But, to the anti-choice movement, that just makes Daleiden seem even more like David, closer than ever to slinging the winning shot.