Civil Disobedience Only Works for Liberals?
A couple of stories this week are indicative of a society increasingly unmoored to common sense and common decency, much less Rule of Law.
In Houston, the results of that city’s investigation of a Planned Parenthood clinic’s trafficking in baby parts has resulted in an indictment — of the whistleblowers. Californians David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt have been charged by a Harris County grand jury for tampering with a governmental record, a second-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Adding insult to injury, Daleiden, the leader of the videographers from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) that published the exposé, was also charged with the same misdemeanor he had accused Planned Parenthood of committing — namely the purchase or sale of the organs of unborn babies.
“As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us,” said Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, a registered Republican. “All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case.”
Their decision is a travesty. The series of videos published by CMP are a compendium of outrages. In one, the organization’s Chief Medical Director, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, is shown casually discussing the various abortion techniques employed to preserve as much fetal tissue as possible. In another, Dr. Mary Gatter, president of the Planned Parenthood Medical Directors' Council, is shown discussing the “less crunchy” abortion techniques needed to procure “whole specimens,” and haggling over fetal tissue sales prices because she wants “a Lamborghini.” In still another, Melissa Farrell, Director of Research for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, promotes that branch’s track record of fetal tissue sales, and its ability to “get the best specimens.” Yet another shows StemExpress CEO Cate Dyer expressing concern that a lack of fetal “tissue” might put a crimp in her business, and she was hoping to increase her supply. “What would make your lab happy?” one of the actors asked. “Another 50 livers a week,” Dyer responded, further noting that StemExpress did about half their business with Planned Parenthood “because they’re a volume institution.” Shortly after that video’s release, StemExpress severed ties with Planned Parenthood, explaining it was “due to the increased questions that have arisen over the past few weeks.”
Planned Parenthood claimed the videos were “heavily edited,” but that is simply a lie. Nothing was cut or juxtaposed, and the videos are available in full at the CMP website.
The only thing heavily edited here was Leftmedia coverage of this story.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who had called on Harris County District Attorney’s Office and the State senate to investigate, insisted the Senate would continue its work because “the horrific nature of these videos demand scrutiny and investigation.” Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton vowed to continue their own investigations as well. “The fact remains that the videos exposed the horrific nature of abortion and the shameful disregard for human life of the abortion industry,” Paxton said.
Regardless, Planned Parenthood was basking in the glow of its ostensible victory. “It’s great news because it demonstrates what we have said from the very beginning, which is that Planned Parenthood is following every rule and regulation, and that these people came into our buildings under the guise of health when their true intentions were to spread lies,” said Rochelle Tafolla, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, which runs the Houston clinic as well as facilities in Louisiana.
CMP released a statement of its own: “The Center for Medical Progress uses the same undercover techniques that investigative journalists have used for decades in exercising our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press, and follows all applicable laws. Planned Parenthood still cannot deny the admissions from their leadership about fetal organ sales captured on video for all the world to see.”
There is something else all the world should see: Lauren Reeder, one of the prosecutors in the Harris County district attorney’s office, is also a Planned Parenthood board member — of the Gulf Coast facility targeted by Daleiden. And despite Operation Rescue and other pro-life groups that asked last August for a special prosecutor, Anderson declined, assuring the public that Reeder “will not be involved in any manner in this investigation.”
Judge Andrew Napolitano was disgusted by the seemingly Orwellian outcome of the probe. “These are what we call ‘crimes of intent,’” he said, referring to the charge of soliciting fetal body parts directed against Daleiden. “You have to intend to commit the crime. You can’t just utter the words.” As for the DA declining to charge Planned Parenthood, only to go after the activists that exposed them? “Absolutely this is a political hit job,” he insisted.
Which brings us to political hit job number two, courtesy of a jury in Snohomish County, Washington. In September 2014, five people subsequently known as the Delta 5 were arrested for blockading train shipments of oil and coal at a BNSF Railway yard in Everett. The protest by the two women and three men was organized by Rising Tide Seattle, “a grassroots, all-volunteer collective taking direct action to confront the root causes of climate change,” according to its website. The protesters set up a tripod of poles over the tracks with a woman perched on top and the others chained to the three legs. Trains were prevented from operating for eight hours until railroad police called local officers who removed the woman atop the tripod and cut the cables tied to the demonstrators.
The jury found the quintet not guilty of obstruction. And in what Daily Beast writer Ted Hamilton characterizes as a “master class” in “principled lawbreaking,” the jury heard “testimony that defendants' criminal actions were justified by ‘climate necessity,’” described effusively by the columnist as “the argument that it’s better to break the law while getting in a few punches at the fossil fuel system than to sit back and lawfully watch the world burn.”
At the last minute, the judge barred the jury from considering such a defense, but Hamilton remained optimistic, envisioning a future where “esteemed justices will grasp the depth of the warming problem and the shallowness of Congress' ability to deal with it.” In Cortlandt, New York, a group known as the Montrose 9, on trial for blocking the entrance to Spectra Energy’s construction site, also plans to use the “climate necessity” defense.
These actions, and the legal machinations attempting to justify them, are championed by the Climate Disobedience Center, a group advocating “civil” disobedience as the “single most effective tool for cracking the consensual climate hallucination,” even as they dedicate themselves to “supporting those who hold allegiance to a higher moral law through the legal process and consequences of action.”
If these stories are indicative of anything, perhaps it is the reality that millions of Americans feel increasingly alienated by what constitutes acceptable behavior in our society. They are repelled for example, not only by the notion that babies and their body parts can be reduced to salable commodities, but by the reality that so many fellow Americans seem to abide, or even champion, the idea. They are equally contemptuous of the idea that the enforcement of the law can be rendered null and void based on pretensions of self-aggrandizing “nobility.” The sense that “up is down” or “black is white” is becoming increasingly pervasive, and one has the sense we are one election away from rediscovering American exceptionalism — or institutionalizing our irrevocable decline. A nation can withstand many shocks to the system. A complete lack of moral clarity isn’t one of them.