On a shady downtown sidewalk, antiabortion activists were preparing for their lunchtime protest. Members of Students for Life gathered outside Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris' office. Her sin on this day? Her investigation of the antiabortion activist who created an elaborate ruse to "expose" Planned Parenthood's perfectly legal practice of providing fetal tissue for medical research.
"Can I get an abortion victim?" asked a middle-aged woman who was positioning giant photos of bloody fetal tissue near the microphone stand for maximum visual impact.
Last week, as my colleague Paige St. John first reported, investigators from Harris' office searched David Daleiden's Huntington Beach apartment — seizing computers, hard drives and California IDs issued under the aliases that he and an associate used to gain access to meetings of the National Abortion Federation and surreptitiously film Planned Parenthood doctors discussing how they procure fetal tissue.
Daleiden and his allies claim that he is a "citizen journalist" whose 1st Amendment rights were violated by the attorney general's raid. The National Abortion Federation and Planned Parenthood, both of which are suing him, claim he perpetrated a fraud.
Sensing an opportunity to create a political martyr out of Daleiden, and raise some cash, antiabortion organizations — including mainstream ones like the Susan B. Anthony List and radical ones like the Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust — urged like-minded activists to show up here Wednesday to demand that Harris resign.
(Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust also has launched a chilling effort called the Irregulars. In August, founder Jeff White, a former Operation Rescue leader, wrote: "We are declaring war on Planned Parenthood. We are soldiers or warriors that employ irregular military tactics … harassing, pursuing and sabotaging Planned Parenthood's evil plans at every turn." He urged young people to come to California "because this is where Planned Parenthood is strongest." The post was removed but was provided to me by the Feminist Majority Foundation, which monitors groups like his.)
Harris has accepted money from Planned Parenthood. On her Senate campaign website, she asks voters to sign a petition in support of the organization.
That, abortion foes say, makes her unfit to investigate Daleiden.
"Public officials are not prohibited from doing their jobs because they get money from a business, or a nonprofit, or some other kind of organization," said Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson, vice president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission. "This is how the political world goes 'round. Officials get contributions and sometimes they take action in a way that affects their contributors."
When I asked Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life, why it was OK for Republican attorneys general to accept money from antiabortion organizations, then try to outlaw abortion (Michigan, Kansas and Texas come to mind), she changed the subject.
"The question is, why was taxpayer money wasted on 11 agents raiding a one-bedroom apartment when David was already cooperating with the investigation?" she said. "And why wasn't there an investigation of Planned Parenthood? I would be happy to investigate everybody. Let's figure out what actually happened."
But of course, we know what actually happened.
Daleiden set out to prove that Planned Parenthood breaks the law. A dozen state investigations have found no wrongdoing. A Texas grand jury impaneled to investigate Planned Parenthood ended up indicting Daleiden on charges of trying to buy fetal tissue and using a fake California driver's license.
Hawkins tried to explain that away: "If you look at the Texas situation, you have a politically motivated, pro-abortion assistant DA."
But the assistant district attorney's boss was not "pro-abortion." And she was in charge. "Anyone who pays attention knows that I am pro-life," said Harris County Dist. Atty. Devon Anderson. "I believe abortion is wrong. But my personal belief does not relieve me of my obligation to follow the law."
I guess you could say the same about our own attorney general.
Maybe it was too close to finals. Only about 30 students showed up for the low-key event. Most arrived by bus from Washington and Oregon.
"Kamala Harris is supposed to be the person we trust to go after criminals, but instead she targets an innocent, law-abiding citizen," said Veronica Fealy, founder of the Bay Area antiabortion group Shield for the Unborn. A gray-haired man across the street nearly drowned out her amplified voice, screaming: "Choice! Choice! Choice!" It wasn't as exciting as a Donald Trump rally, but it jolted me awake.
Back in July, after Daleiden's videos hit the Internet, Harris vowed to investigate whether he had broken any laws when he created fake IDs and registered fake companies with the state. Last month, I wondered in print why it was taking her so long to wrap it up. Ten days later, her investigators raided Daleiden's home. I thought it was kind of a cool coincidence.
Antiabortion news sites claimed I had goaded Harris into action. On LifeNews.com, Operation Rescue's Cheryl Sullenger wrote, "There is evidence that Abcarian was acting as a surrogate for an impatient Planned Parenthood." She described me as a "so-called journalist."
Well then. I guess I would call her a so-called pro-lifer. After all, she served about two years in federal prison in connection with the failed 1987 firebombing of a San Diego abortion clinic.
I would love to think I am powerful enough to command the attorney general to do my bidding.
But I'm pretty sure she was just doing her job.