Pro-lifers see a conflict of interest in prosecutor who sits on Texas Planned Parenthood board
HOUSTON, January 26, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Pro-life observers are asking what role, if any, a Houston prosecutor who sits on the board of Planned Parenthood played in the indictment of two pro-life investigators who released undercover videos of her organization.
Lauren Reeder, an assistant district attorney in Harris County, has been a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast (PPGC) since 2009 and a member of the PPGC board of directors since 2013.
A photo of Lauren Reeder appearing at Planned Parenthood fundraiser wearing a halter top and hot pants has been posted on Facebook by PPGC.
The Harris County grand jury indicted Center for Medical Progress investigators David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt on Monday but pressed no charges against PPGC.
Reeder went public with her role in PPGC last August, when the office began its local investigation.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said Reeder “made the disclosure in order to be transparent.”
Critics said it would be a conflict of interest for a member of the organization under investigation to be involved with the official inquiry.
"She will not be involved in any manner in this investigation," Anderson said in a statement. "If at any time in the future, reliable and credible information is brought to my attention that would question our ability to continue to perform a fair, thorough and independent investigation of this matter due to her board membership, I will revisit the issue of seeking the appointment of an independent prosecutor and act accordingly."
Reeder has worked in the criminal family law division since 2014.
“The fact that an employee of the District Attorney is on the board of Planned Parenthood confirms an incestuous relationship between corrupt officials in the Harris County DA's office and the nation’s largest abortion provider, whose livelihood is on the line should they be criminally charged with selling the body parts of aborted babies,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America.
The issue came up at the time of her disclosure, but Anderson – and some Texas Republicans – dismissed the notion that Reeder might influence her colleagues.
That wasn't good enough for Daleiden's supporters, taken aback by the indictment. "It is unacceptable that the office did not recuse itself to eliminate any and all questions of potential bias,” said Live Action founder Lila Rose, who gave Daleiden his start in undercover work. “A special prosecutor should be appointed now to review this entire investigation."
“There is now a pattern in Houston of District Attorney Devon Anderson’s office covering up abortion-related crimes,” said Operation Rescue Senior Vice President Cheryl Sullenger.
The same DA's office refused to indict late-term abortionist Douglas Karpen in 2013, although his former employees accused him of killing newborn infants, sometimes twisting off their heads with his bare hands.
“Photographic evidence provided to me showed injuries to large aborted babies that was consistent with those claims,” Sullenger said. Yet “Operation Rescue has good reason to believe that evidence was never presented to that grand jury.”
Operation Rescue President Troy Newman, who is a member of CMP's board, raised Reeder's connection last summer. “We certainly do not want another prosecutorial fiasco in Houston,” Newman said. “We demand that a neutral special prosecutor be appointed to oversee the grand jury investigation of Planned Parenthood. Any investigation should be centered on the facts alone, and not on the personal or political biases of prosecutors.”
Sullenger said the “the secrecy surrounding the grand jury process” leaves it “susceptible to manipulation by a prosecutor with a personal or political agenda.”
The DA office's leverage over grand juries is a systemic problem and not restricted to one state, she said. “In Kansas, abortion-related grand juries were so influenced by unscrupulous prosecutors who sought to cover up abortion crimes that the state legislature is now attempting to change the laws to make the process more transparent and accountable to the people,” Sullenger added.
Some have dismissed that concern. Eugene Volokh, a respected legal scholar, dismissed Reeder's involvement with PPGC as “a red herring.”
Ultimately, Daleiden's legal counsel believes he will prevail, because the charges are baseless.
“We have to respect the process. But at the same time we can vigorously detest [protest] that there is any merit to the charges,” Daleiden's attorney, Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society, told LifeSiteNews on Tuesday.