A California prosecutor’s felony charges against two pro-life investigative reporters, who secretly videotaped a Planned Parenthood official appearing to discuss the price of aborted baby parts, is “a disturbing overreach,” a historically pro-choice newspaper said.
The Los Angeles Times editorial board on Thursday criticized the decision of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to file 15 felony counts against the leaders of the pro-life Center of Medical Progress (CMP), David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt.
The secretly made videotape, which critics say was prejudicially edited, showed Planned Parenthood officials appearing to offer fetal tissue for sale, something the CMP says is illegal. Becerra, a Democrat, said the pair violated state law by recording people without their consent.
“It’s disturbingly aggressive for Becerra to apply this criminal statute to people who were trying to influence a contested issue of public policy, regardless of how sound or popular that policy may be,” the editorial says. “As misguided as they were, their aim was to change people’s views on important and controversial issues – abortion and fetal tissue research.”
The influential newspaper noted that in similar cases, “we have denounced moves to criminalize such behavior, especially in the case of animal welfare investigators who have gone undercover at slaughterhouses and other agricultural businesses to secretly record horrific and illegal abuses of animals. That work, too, is aimed at revealing wrongdoing and changing public policy.”
But the Times noted that it did not appear that Planned Parenthood broke any laws and said what the CMP did was not legitimate journalism.
Becerra said in a statement that the state “will not tolerate the criminal recording of conversations.”
CMP defended its action and predicted Becerra will fail in his prosecution.
“The bogus charges from Planned Parenthood’s political cronies are fake news,” CMP said in a statement on its website. “They tried the same collusion with corrupt officials in Houston and failed… The public knows the real criminals are Planned Parenthood and their business partners like StemExpress and DV Biologics – currently being prosecuted in California – who have harvested and sold aborted baby body parts for profit for years in direct violation of state and federal law.”
The case is one of the first high-profile prosecutions for Becerra, who left the House of Representatives to take over for Kamala Harris after she became a U.S. senator. Becerra was said to have been on Hillary Clinton’s short-list for vice president.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.