For a second time in two weeks, a video appeared online Tuesday showing a Planned Parenthood official discussing the price of fetal parts to a man and woman who are never shown on camera, but who are posing as buyers from a firm that procures tissue for researchers.
WASHINGTON — David Daleiden would only reluctantly talk about himself: “I don’t think I’m the story,” he said by phone Tuesday. But he is the man behind the story and the hidden camera — the anti-abortion activist who has provoked a storm with his video stings alleging that Planned Parenthood clinics are selling tissue from aborted fetuses for profit, a charge the group denies.
On Tuesday, for a second time in two weeks, a video appeared online showing a Planned Parenthood official in California discussing over lunch the price of providing fetal parts to a man and woman who are never shown on camera, but who are posing as buyers from a firm that procures tissue for medical researchers.
Once again, Planned Parenthood condemned the scam for deceptively characterizing its handling fees to cover expenses, which are legal, as illegal profiteering.
The man off camera, just as in the first video, is Daleiden. And, he said, more episodes are coming. Planned Parenthood’s recent prediction that he must have “thousands of hours of videotape” from infiltrating its clinics for 2½ years is “probably an accurate estimate,” Daleiden, 26, said. He guessed he had enough recordings for perhaps a dozen videos that he can release at the rate of one a week for the next few months.
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The time frame all but assures political tumult ahead. The videos will coincide with the Republican-controlled Congress’ final weeks of work on spending bills needed to finance the government after the Oct. 1 start of the next fiscal year.
The first videos already have given impetus to conservatives’ push to hold those bills hostage unless they are amended to eliminate money for Planned Parenthood and other family-planning programs. The risk, as in past years, is a government shutdown.
The videos are also arriving as the large field of Republicans seeking their party’s 2016 presidential nomination takes final shape, and their televised debates begin next month. Already, the rivals are competing to denounce Planned Parenthood as they seek to appeal to anti-abortion conservatives in the party’s base.
“I’m going to do everything I can to stop it,” Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky vowed on Fox News. “We should stop all funding for Planned Parenthood.”
One House committee supported by Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has opened an investigation of the alleged criminal trafficking in fetal tissue, and the Republican leaders from two other committees have written to the Justice Department asking for investigations as well. Seven states are pressing their own inquiries, including two investigations ordered by Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, both Republican presidential candidates.
The White House and congressional Democrats, who are allies of Planned Parenthood and protective of women’s abortion and reproductive rights, have been mostly silent. They say Planned Parenthood has done a good job in its own defense, and that they do not want to give the story any more oxygen than it already has — especially since some video stings of the past came to be discredited without Democrats’ help.
Also, Democrats said they are counting on Republicans to overreach with their attacks — inciting a backlash from women, younger voters and political independents that support Planned Parenthood, and then retreating, as has happened before.
“By Boehner and the Republicans leaping into the middle of this, I think they further demonstrate the political nature of the attack,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster. “And as someone who’s done a lot of polling about Planned Parenthood, I feel reasonably confident that Americans, particularly American women, will see this as about politics, not about health care.”
But Daleiden expresses confidence that this time is different, and that his videos will change minds.
He wanted to start releasing them a year ago but said he needed to get more material against what he called “the whole world of selling baby parts.”
“When you know that you have something powerful, that’s going to shock a lot of consciences,” Daleiden said, it is “natural not to want to keep that under wraps.”
Daleiden rejected a question about the potential benefits of research using fetal tissue for curing and treating diseases, saying, “Most fetal-tissue work is real Frankenstein stuff.”
He also dismissed critics of his undercover methods, which included forming a fake tax-exempt company and mysterious advocacy group, saying that only Planned Parenthood or its supporters would object.
Daleiden said he has been an anti-abortion activist for more than a decade. He formed an anti-abortion group at his high school in Sacramento, Calif., a period when he met another young activist named Lila Rose, who until now was better known to Planned Parenthood and other abortion-rights advocates for her own video stings by her group, Live Action.
Daleiden said he continued his anti-abortion work as a student at Claremont McKenna College, in Claremont, Calif., where he said he got a degree in government and befriended the conservative activist Charles Johnson, a self-described “citizen journalist” whose confrontational posts on Twitter — in particular one that solicited donations to “take out” a civil-rights activist — recently got him banned from Twitter.
Daleiden worked for Live Action in college and became director of research in 2008. According to a biography retrieved from an archived Live Action Web page, Daleiden participated in a “Genocide Awareness Project,” displaying in public large images said to be aborted fetuses, and he was banned for a time from visiting Pomona College after videotaping a Planned Parenthood official there for proof that the group was covering up statutory rape.
Some liberal websites have suggested Daleiden is also a friend and ally of James O’Keefe, who, like Rose, is a well-known video provocateur, for his campaign that brought down the liberal community-organizing group ACORN.
“I would consider James a friend,” Daleiden said. “But in reality I’ve literally met him once in my life.”
None of the other prominent activists have been involved in his recent 30-month project to uncover evidence of illegal trafficking in aborted fetuses, he said.
In his Live Action biography, Daleiden attributed his strong anti-abortion position to seeing images of aborted fetuses as a teenager. But in the interview, he also said, “I am the child of a crisis pregnancy.”
Daleiden said his parents, who are now divorced, were juniors in college when his mother became pregnant. He said he grew up “culturally Catholic,” that is, not particularly religious. Yet he now calls Pope Francis “my inspiration,” although Daleiden’s activism long predates the pope’s ascension, and he points to Francis’ “emphasis on just being active, on going outside of yourself to accomplish things.”
In 2013, Daleiden formed not only his own anti-abortion group, the Sacramento-based Center for Medical Progress, but also filed state papers to create a Norwalk, Calif.-based company, BioMax Procurement Services, as part of his undercover ruse.
BioMax was described as a company that “provides tissue and specimen procurement for academic and private bioscience researchers,” and is committed to helping “facilitate world-changing discoveries.”
The Internal Revenue Service granted the Center for Medical Progress tax-exempt status, allowing donors to deduct contributions, as a nonprofit under the agency’s category for “Diseases, Disorders, Medical Disciplines: Biomedicine, Bioengineering.” A separate category applies to anti-abortion groups.
Daleiden said he has received a total $120,000 over three years from 12 to 15 “very resourceful, committed individuals” who “believed in the mission and wanted to see it done.” He would not name them, and there is no record that the center filed federal 990 tax forms that might identify donors.
The center’s mission is not the one claimed for BioMax of spurring medical discoveries. Instead, the website defines Daleiden’s “Human Capital Project” as a 30-month effort at “documenting Planned Parenthood’s illegal sale of body parts from aborted fetuses.”
Daleiden also would not name the women who went undercover with him. He said he worked with five to seven women, some of whom were also anti-abortion activists. Others, he said, were hired “to fill the role.”
A lawyer for Planned Parenthood has raised questions about whether Daleiden violated state or federal laws by fraudulent corporate and tax filings. On Monday, Daleiden issued a statement in response: “The Center for Medical Progress follows all applicable laws in the course of our investigative journalism work.”
But the description of the center on its website has changed. Originally it was a nonprofit “dedicated to informing and educating both the lay public and the scientific community about the latest advances in regenerative medicine, cell-based therapies, and related disciplines.” Recently it became “a group of citizen journalists dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances.”