Wineke: Using the courts for political gain can backfire

Wineke: Using the courts for political gain can backfire

My guess is that the Texas governor didn’t expect this.

Gov. Greg Abbott asked the Harris County prosecutor to launch a probe of Planned Parenthood.

The health charity has been under continuing fire for months after an anti-abortion organization, the Center for Medical Progress, launched a sting operation that purported to show Planned Parenthood selling body parts of aborted fetuses.

Planned Parenthood denied the accusations and state investigations conducted by conservative prosecutors have failed to find any evidence supporting the accusations.

But the damage was done. State legislatures around the country have defunded Planned Parenthood, causing millions of dollars in lost income and depriving an untold number of its clients to lose their major source of health care.

I expect Abbott felt on firm ground when he asked Harris County to empower a grand jury and go on yet another witch hunt.

What no one seemed to expect is that the grand jury would show some integrity.

It conducted its investigation and determined — as did the other investigations — that Planned Parenthood didn’t break any laws and then indicted officials of the Center for Medical Progress for breaking the law themselves.

When you think about it, this should have come as no surprise.

The previous investigations showed that Planned Parenthood did not “sell” body parts. Its doctors performed legal abortions and contributed fetal tissue to researchers, charging small — and and legal — fees for processing. Why would Texas find anything different?

You may not like abortion and you may not like Planned Parenthood. You may abhor using fetal tissue for medical research. But the organization was acting within the law.

The Center for Medical Progress, on the other hand, not only broke the law but was openly proud of doing so.

Its employees used forged California drivers’ licenses to get through Planned Parenthood security. They used concealed cameras to record conversations with Planned Parenthood executives. They made written offers to purchase the fetal material — which is against the law in Texas.

What no one seemed to expect is that the Harris County grand jury would take its charge seriously and investigate the whole operation.

Juries tend to be like that. Jurors can make mistakes, but overall they take their jobs seriously.

It could well be that every single member of the Harris County grand jury opposes abortion and thinks Planned Parenthood is an agent of the devil. That wasn’t the question they were asked. They were asked to decide whether laws were broken and if so, who broke them.

The right wing is, predictably, going crazy. The right wing is really good at offense, not so good at defense.

Will this development give the right wing pause for thought? Of course not. They will keep making libelous claims and carrying out rigged investigations (maybe not with citizen juries next time).

But it is good for the soul to see them trapped by their own lies.