Undercover reporter to speak at pro-life dinner
April 18, 2019
A citizen journalist who went undercover to investigate Planned Parenthood’s suspected for-profit sale of aborted babies’ body parts will be the keynote speaker at the annual Nebraskans United for Life’s Celebration of Life dinner.
The Jan. 12 dinner and auction, at the DC Centre in Omaha, will feature Sandra Merritt, a member of the Center for Medical Progress who, with fellow journalist David Daleiden, recorded hidden camera videos of conversations with Planned Parenthood officials and others in Texas and California discussing the activity.
The videos prompted congressional and U.S. Justice Department investigations into Planned Parenthood and companies involved in the purchases.
Merritt, 64, a mother of two and a Christian, lives in northern California. She worked as an elementary and high school teacher, and homeschooled her children.
In 2016, Merritt and Daleiden were indicted by a Houston grand jury on charges of procuring and using false identification, charges that were later thrown out. In California, charges filed in 2017 included 14 counts of recording people without permission and one count of criminal conspiracy to invade privacy.
After a California court dismissed the 14 charges, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, whose election campaign received large donations from Planned Parenthood, refiled charges against Merritt, but did so erroneously under Daleiden’s case number.
When the error was discovered, Becerra refiled the charges two months after the 10-day deadline allowed by California law.
The court permitted the late refiling, and Merritt’s case currently awaits trial. If convicted, Merritt could spend 11 years in prison.
The Catholic Voice spoke with Merritt about her commitment to the pro-life cause and her undercover investigative work.
Q: Sandra, what drew you to the pro-life cause?
That goes back about 40 years, and as I was first learning of the issue of abortion, it became quite clear that to sit on the sidelines and to let the atrocity of abortion continue was not something that I could do. I needed to take part in efforts to stop it. At the time I did what was appropriate for my age and what I was doing in life … so at one time I could fund, I could send money to organizations. I stood on sidewalks with signs, I took my little girl with me. The pastor of my church said, “Go out to the biggest church with the biggest congregation,” and what he meant by that was stand in front of the mall, where on Sunday crowds go to shop, and that would get the biggest audience, so I did that. And then I was very watchful over what my own children were being taught, which was a reason why I homeschooled. I could tell what was going on in the public schools, and private schools for that matter too, so I wanted to bring my children up with the truth and do something about abortion, so that’s what drew me.
Q: What is the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), and how did you become involved in its undercover investigation of Planned Parenthood?
So right on the website for the Center for Medical Progress, I’ll just read you the quote. (CMP) “is a group of citizen journalists dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances.”
So that’s what CMP is all about. The short answer to my involvement with CMP is that I had been struggling internally with what was going on in the world, how dark it was. I was teaching little second-graders at the time and the contrast with walking into the classroom and seeing the innocence of youth, what I was teaching them, what I had the privilege to teach them about Christianity, but then at the end of the day walking out, listening to the news and just being very aware of how dark and upside down our world was, and fear of speaking truth, needing to speak politically correct language, I was very frustrated interiorly. So I was talking to a friend about it and she said, “Oh I know what you need to do, you should pray this prayer,” and she said, “but do not pray it unless you really mean it.” And so I thought about it for two or three weeks and I decided, yes, I would pray that prayer, which I did, and less than 24 hours from praying the prayer, I was contacted by David and that began my involvement with CMP.
Q: And what was the nature of that prayer?
The nature of the prayer is, and I can almost remember it verbatim – “God, the world is very dark and it’s getting darker, I’m old and getting older. However you want to use me, I give myself over to you.”
Q: Tell me about the experience of preparing for and going undercover for these investigations.
Well, I’d like to refer you to a book that was very exciting to read, and I think you as a journalist would appreciate it. The title of the book is, “Undercover Reporting,” written by Brooke Kroeger, who is a professor of journalism in New York. When I started to read the book I thought, this is nothing new under the sun, what David and I have done. In fact, our country has a very rich history of undercover investigations, and it’s documented in this book, so the techniques might change, obviously because of technology, but the goal is the same – to show the public, who have a vital interest and a right, and a need for information, the truth, that will affect them personally and I think, in a larger way, (to) impact the very moral fiber of our country.
America has a rich history of this. (For example), issues such as slavery – Horace Greeley’s undercover reporting exposed the evil of his age, which was slavery. … To end slavery, undercover reporting was involved.
So I hope that the truth that was exposed by our videos, that this horror of abortion that’s exposed, that people have the courage to just watch those unedited full-length videos, that abortion can be ended in the same way that slavery was dealt with in our country.
Q: And are those videos posted on the Center for Medical Progress’ website?
They are. That’s one of the lies that Planned Parenthood was able to use through their ally, the media, to discredit those videos. But the full-length videos, some of them two, three hours long – anyone can go in and watch those. But Planned Parenthood hired Fusion GPS (who) has been shown to be liars and discredited, so that they could go out and continue to lie about those, and I’m trying to think what they said – the highly, deceptively edited videos. They are not. They are just trimmed down so that the attention span of the vast majority of people could get the truth of what Planned Parenthood does behind the scenes. But, the full length videos are there, the forensic analysis of those videos done by another company, that actually told the truth, those are not deceptively edited videos.
Q: Well Sandra, how did your faith play a part in becoming involved in the Center for Medical Progress and ultimately in these investigations?
Faith sustains me during this phase that we’re in now, the legal phase of the project. The prayer that I took time to think about – do I really mean this, what I’m saying to God, do I really mean that I am giving over everything, control, and however he wants to use me, do I really mean that? And I did. I didn’t have an attorney at my side while I was drawing up that contract with God. But I don’t go back on my word with God, so when I said it’s dark, I’m old, use me, I meant it, and that when things look a little dark, I go back to that prayer and I remember this is not about CMP, this is not about David Daleiden, this is about a prayer that God was very quick to answer, and I just need to completely trust and obey that he’s going to use what I did to his pleasure.
Q: What was the most striking thing that you discovered during your undercover operations?
The level of delusional and diabolical thinking, beliefs and actions on the part of humans – humans who can haggle over the price of a baby’s body part, humans that can laugh at filthy conditions in abortion clinics, and yet pretend to be pro-woman. Women who can stand over a baby who’s just been aborted, whose remains are in a common kitchen sifter, and hose off the parts that are not profitable, plop that baby in a pie dish, and then coldly calculate whether it’s more profitable to sell the dead baby in pieces or as a whole. To watch that was very striking to me, women who can kill babies, sit on a stool and kill a child the same gestational age as the one she is carrying in her womb, do that day after day, and believe that they are pro-woman and they are doing a good thing. It’s just astounding to me what type of delusional and diabolical thinking brings that about.
Q: Sandra, in summary, why are you willing to put your own freedom on the line in this way, and undergo such an ordeal for the cause?
It’s the right thing to do. I think it goes back to the prayer and when you’re serious about a conversation you’re having with God. I think that’s the end of the story. I think there’s a saint you might know about – St. John Bosco.
So there’s a quote, I would ask you to look it up. A man that I met on the East Coast sent it to me and I think it summarizes … when you are doing something that you know is true and it is right, not because you say it’s true or you feel that it’s right, but because God says it’s right, then what do you have to fear? We only get what, 70, 80 years here and then we will stand before God and we will need to give an answer for every thought, word, deed, and then we face eternity, so what’s the years here if we’re not going to make right choices.
On my own personal spiritual journey, trust has been a huge obstacle for me, just trusting, trusting people, but ultimately trust in God and then obeying him. That’s a daily struggle, and this project is just part of that, each and every day going back to that original prayer, trusting him, and obeying him.