In a stunning turn of events, an investigation in Texas into the criminal charges against women's healthcare provider Planned Parenthood ended in the indictment not of the organisation but of its accusers, the makers of a series of sting videos that showed Planned Parenthood officials talking about harvesting baby parts and selling them.
The Harris County District Attorney's office announced on Monday that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast had been cleared in the two-month-long investigation.
David Daleiden, the head and founder of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), and CMP employee Sandra Merritt were indicted for tampering with a governmental record, a second-degree felony.
Daleiden was also indicted on the count of prohibition of the purchase and sale of human organs, a class A misdemeanor, according to the Harris County district attorney.
A warrant for Daleiden's arrest had been issued Monday evening, according to the Harris County District Clerk's website.
The case resulted from a series of shocking undercover videos in which CMP employees posed as prospective buyers of foetal tissue. The videos showed several employees of Planned Parenthood and its contractors discussing practices banned by law such as the sale of human organs.
However, Planned Parenthood argued that the videos were maliciously edited to create a misperception of the group.
Following his indictment, Daleiden promptly issued a statement defending his group's action.
"The Center for Medical Progress uses the same undercover techniques that investigative journalists have used for decades in exercising our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press, and follows all applicable laws," Daleiden said.
"We respect the processes of the Harris County District Attorney, and note that buying foetal tissue requires a seller as well. Planned Parenthood still cannot deny the admissions from their leadership about foetal organ sales captured on video for all the world to see," he added.
Planned Parenthood officials celebrated the court action, hailing the indictment of Daleiden as vindication.
"These anti-abortion extremists spent three years creating a fake company, creating fake identities, lying, and breaking the law. When they couldn't find any improper or illegal activity, they made it up," Eric Ferrero, vice president of communications for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.
"As the dust settles and the truth comes out, it's become totally clear that the only people who engaged in wrongdoing are the criminals behind this fraud, and we're glad they're being held accountable," Ferrero said.
The videos sparked a political storm, prompting Republicans in Congress last summer to call for defunding Planned Parenthood. Their efforts, however, were unsuccessful.
Rep. Diane Black, R-Tennessee, author of the House-passed "Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015," said she was "profoundly disappointed" by the indictments.
"It is a sad day in America when those who harvest the body parts of aborted babies escape consequences for their actions, while the courageous truth-tellers who expose their misdeeds are handed down a politically motivated indictment instead," she said.