By now, David Daleiden is a household name, known for his series of videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s trade in fetal body parts. Millions of people watched in horror as Planned Parenthood directors casually discussed the dismemberment of babies in the womb and then negotiated sale of their parts for profit. The videos served as the catalyst for congressional hearings and state and federal criminal investigations into Planned Parenthood and its abortion allies. David’s colleague and co-defendant is Sandra Merritt, an unassuming 64-year old grandmother from Northern California. With your help, Life Legal is assisting Sandra and David as they battle felony charges filed by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. We recently asked her to speak of her experience in Planned Parenthood’s crosshairs.
Sandra Merritt has a promise for Dr. Mary Gatter. “Mary, when you are out of business and the pro-life movement is out of business, when Roe v. Wade is overturned and abortion is illegal, pro-lifers will chip in and buy you a Lamborghini.”
The mainstream media identify Sandra Merritt as an “anti-abortion extremist.” Anti-abortion? Definitely. Extremist? Not really. I had the opportunity to talk to her about her experiences before and after the undercover investigation and found her a humorous, down-to-earth woman who likes to talk about her children and being a grandmother.
When I asked Sandra why she became involved with the pro-life movement, she had a straight-forward answer: “Because I think ripping the legs off babies in the womb, sucking their brains out, stabbing them with digoxin, and killing them in the womb is wrong.”
Sandra grew up in the 60’s, a time of “vocabulary warfare.” It wasn’t until she became a Christian in her thirties that she “came out of the fog of rhetoric and lies.” She realized what abortion was and committed to doing what she could to stop it. Twenty-eight years ago she participated, with her young daughter, in her first anti-abortion event: holding signs outside a shopping mall on Sunday, the busiest shopping day of the week. For her, the connection between (1) the belief that killing babies is wrong, and (2) the responsibility to do something to stop it, is immediate. Simply standing on the sidelines and believing abortion is wrong is not enough.
How did this 64-year-old grandmother find herself charged with multiple felonies in multiple states and on the receiving end of two civil lawsuits?
A few years ago, Sandra had a job working with young children. The contrast between the innocence of the young children and the terrible news surfacing every day from every corner of the world began to depress her. A friend gave Sandra a copy of a prayer. Sandra prayed, “Lord, I’m old and getting older. The world is dark and getting darker. I give You total control of my life. Use me in this dark world.” Within twenty-four hours a young man she had never met before contacted her and asked her to be part of a project to uncover the darkness within the abortion industry. The young man was David Daleiden.
Sandra was away from home most of the day the first undercover video was released in July 2015. Right before she left the house, her daughter showed her that it was on YouTube and had 47 views. Sandra was thrilled. “This is great! Forty-seven people have seen Planned Parenthood talking about ripping up babies. Now they won’t believe their lies anymore. This is so great!” She went out, thankful that 47 people knew about Planned Parenthood killing babies. When she arrived home in the evening, her daughters made her sit down and then told her that the video had had almost a million views. “This is big, huh,” she said. “This is like that Justin Bieber guy.” The reach of the videos is beyond anything she imagined.
She described her reaction when the StemExpress, the National Abortion Federation, and Planned Parenthood filed lawsuits against her and other undercover investigators. “What’s wrong with you, Cecile [Richards]?! You get caught, you own it! Oh, you’re going to go to court?” Really, Sandra said, she wasn’t that surprised. After the first few undercover videos came out, Planned Parenthood released a video of Cecile Richards denying everything. “I saw her carotid artery bulging out of her neck. I knew Planned Parenthood wasn’t going to go down without an ugly fight. The machine will keep rolling. Satan will not give up.”
Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation are still pursuing their lawsuits, but fetal tissue marketer StemExpress dropped its lawsuit this past January.
Sandra attended March for Life for the first time in 2016 with her daughter. A blizzard snowed them in for five days and disrupted air travel in and out of the city. They were finally on their way home, waiting to board the first leg of their flight, which would take them to Texas, when her daughter saw the news. “Mom, you’ve been indicted in Texas.” Telling me about it, Sandra recalled with a chuckle “I didn’t know if I should get on the plane. They knew my name. I didn’t know if they would pull me off the plane in Texas and take me off to jail. In the end, I just got on the plane because I wanted to get home.”
A grand jury in Harris County, Texas indicted Sandra and David [Daleiden] in January 2016 on a felony charge related to falsifying government documents. The district attorney dropped the charge in July 2016.
In March of this year, the attorney general of California brought fifteen felony charges against Sandra and David Daleiden. Fourteen charges are for allegedly illegally recording confidential conversations and the fifteenth is for allegedly conspiring to illegally record confidential conversations. As soon as she heard the news, Sandra knew as clearly as if someone told her, “You’re going to go to jail on this one and you’re going to talk to people about the lies of Planned Parenthood.”
She arrived at the San Francisco courthouse for her arraignment for the fifteen felony counts. She saw a woman setting up a sign in front of the building and stopped to read it. When the woman moved, she read, “Pro-Life Atheist.” She asked what the sign meant. The woman started to explain about her group of atheists who oppose abortion, but interrupted herself: “Are you Sandra?” She was there to support Sandra and David at their court appearance.
The coincidental meeting encouraged Sandra. “Atheists get it. Atheists understand the dignity of life.” It reminded her of all the people from wildly different backgrounds who vehemently disagree with the attorney general’s overreach. From Milo Yiannopoulos to the editors of the Sacramento Bee, everyone with an ounce of integrity opposes the felony prosecution in California. “All intellectually honest people get it.”
The courthouse refused to allow her to see a judge without first being booked into the jail. As part of the booking process, a nurse took Sandra’s temperature and checked her blood pressure. Her blood pressure disturbed him. Was this normal for her? Did she have any idea why it might be so high? She finally spoke. “It could have something to do with the fact that I’m sitting in jail for the first time in my life.” The nurse laughed, and Sandra told him what she was in for.
Some of the guards were kind and did their jobs well, but Sandra strongly disapproved of others. “They were just standing around, not doing their job, wasting our taxpayer money.” She looked at them so sternly that they moved her to a different cell where they couldn’t see her.
She talked to several guards about what she was in for and told them what Planned Parenthood does to babies. Most were shocked and disgusted. She told one guard to Google Planned Parenthood and Planned Parenthood’s founder Margaret Sanger. The guard came and found her an hour later, horrified by what he had learned. Sandra’s cellmates wanted to know what they were talking about. She told them what Planned Parenthood does to babies. The women couldn’t bear hearing her describe how abortions are performed.
Sandra appeared at her arraignment in an orange jumpsuit. After the first judge recused himself for undisclosed reasons, they appeared before a second judge. Sandra’s attorney asked for a reduction in the outrageous $75,000 bail, presenting abundant evidence that the chance of her fleeing and not appearing for her trial are very slim, even with a smaller bail. But the deputy attorney general argued that Sandra’s “victims”—the abortionists she recorded discussing killing babies—were terrorized and lived in fear for their lives. The attorney general did not even try to argue that Sandra might not appear for her trial or show any other factor justifying a large bail. The judge, however, effectively agreed to punish Sandra for crimes she has not been convicted of and required her to post the full bail.
Seeing the open bias firsthand brought home to her the importance of good judicial appointments. She sees a large segment of the court system as just a link in the chain of the pro-abortion propaganda campaign. “The judges hand down injustice and lies that the media spreads, while hiding the injustice,” Sandra sadly notes.
After the hearing, while her attorneys arranged for her bail, Sandra went back to the jail and continued talking to the guards and prisoners about Planned Parenthood. Sandra described the plastic baggie of food that was handed in for dinner: two slices of bread, a slice of cheese, a butter pat, and a carton of milk. Her cellmates told her that the same meal is served three times a day. Sandra quipped, “Where is Michelle Obama on jail menus?” She was released after twelve hours in custody.
Despite all of the hardships she has faced and will continue to face, Sandra is at peace. She knows God called her into the project and God brought her to where she is. “It’s a beautiful journey,” she says. “Anybody can do this. Grandma can do this—anyone can.”
I asked if Sandra had a list of pro-life goals that she hoped the undercover video project will have accomplished in five years. But Sandra doesn’t want to be thinking about abortion in five years. Five years from now, Sandra wants to be working on the next thing. She wants to be playing with her grandchildren and working on her crocheting. She wants abortion to end now. In fact, she wants abortion to have ended yesterday. Lovely people she met at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., told her she should come again for the March next year. “Are you crazy? There isn’t going to be a March next year. Abortion has to end by then.”
What can we do to help end abortion? “Whatever you’re doing, ask yourself if you can do just a little bit more,” Sandra urges. “If you can’t spend an hour in front of an abortion clinic, can you take two minutes and call your senator? Can you give a little bit more money to a pro-life organization? Whatever you do, ask yourself: ‘Can I do a little bit more?’”
We are relying on YOUR support to continue defending Sandra, David, and other courageous pro-life heroes who are taking a stand against the nation’s largest abortion provider. Will you help us with your tax-deductible gift of $25, $50, $100, or more right away?