‘This is a dangerous precedent for citizen journalism and First Amendment civil rights across the country’
Amid the twists and turns of the plethora of lawsuits against David Daleiden, the pro-life advocate who went undercover to record abortion industry executives talking about procuring fetal body parts, a one-liner sticks out.
‘So you know, it’s a game.’
The off-the-cuff remark was made by Ruth Arick, a former abortion clinic administrator turned owner of the abortion consulting firm Choice Pursuits, as she described how abortionists obtain intact fetuses for researchers who request them.
‘Some researchers are looking for whole fetuses in the earlier stages, so you over-dilate, you try to be able to extract an entire fetus through your cannula,’ Arick says in the surreptitiously recorded audio, recorded several years ago when Daleiden and his associate were posing undercover as fetal tissue procurers.
‘But then again, the over-dilation can be a risk to the woman, so you know, it’s a game,’ Arick adds.
The insouciance of the abortion industry veteran’s remarks contrasted with their jarring subject matter has the potential to scandalize the consciences of even some who generally support the right to choose. However, the judge and grand jury in the federal civil trial against Daleiden were ultimately successful in not letting lurid background information phase them and ended the case with a thud on Friday in a win for Planned Parenthood.
The audio recording was used as evidence in San Francisco’s US District Court, which saw the jury award Planned Parenthood over $2.2 million in its verdict against Daleiden under federal racketeering statutes. The lawsuit was brought by Planned Parenthood and ten of its abortion affiliates, who accused Daleiden and his pro-life organization, the Center for Medical Progress, of fraud, trespassing, and making illegal secret recordings.
‘The First Amendment is not a defense to the claims in this case for the jury to consider,’ Judge William Orrick wrote before the trial began. ‘Defendants’ argument that they were citizen journalists was admissible as context for the defendants’ case, not as a legal defense.’
After the ruling, abortion advocates rejoiced.
‘The jury recognized today that those behind the campaign broke the law in order to advance their goals of banning safe, legal abortion in this country, and to prevent Planned Parenthood from serving the patients who depend on us,’ said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, adding that the activists spearheaded a ‘malicious campaign’ against the nation’s largest abortion provider.
On the other side, the heartbreak was almost palpable.
March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said her group was ‘saddened’ by the ‘profoundly unjust decision’ and lambasted Orrick for having a conflict of interest stemming from his ties to Planned Parenthood, which she claimed ‘greatly biased the jury’.
Orrick has received thousands of dollars from Planned Parenthood for his previous congressional campaigns.
Lila Rose, president of the pro-life group Live Action, also criticized Orrick’s ties to the plaintiff, saying he was ‘clearly incapable of seeing the true criminals here’.
‘It is a sad day when the justice system is manipulated by the rich and powerful to protect the guilty and punish the innocent,’ she lamented.
Daleiden himself did not mince words in his reaction to the legal blow, accusing Orrick of being a ‘biased judge’ who had decided the ruling before the trial began as well as suppressed video evidence instrumental to the case.
‘This is a dangerous precedent for citizen journalism and First Amendment civil rights across the country, sending a message that speaking truth and facts to criticize the powerful is no longer protected by our institutions,’ Daleiden said.
Daleiden’s lawyers plan to appeal Friday’s decision, saying their client used ‘standard investigative journalism techniques’ to investigate the ‘criminal activity’ of the nation’s largest abortion provider.
‘This is what so outraged the public. The true words of Planned Parenthood’s top abortion doctors and other personnel,’ lead counsel Peter Breen said in his closing argument. ‘They wanted to protect the brand. But what is it that hurt the brand? The very words spoken by Planned Parenthood personnel on those videos is what hurt the brand.’
Chief Counsel Tom Brejcha added that the verdict has also sunk its teeth into the ‘sacred tenet of freedom of the press’.
‘Planned Parenthood decided that it was above the law. Planned Parenthood was wrong,’ Brejcha stated.
Daleiden’s challenges are far from over. A separate California state criminal trial over the same undercover videos is ongoing in the Superior Court of California County of San Francisco, presided over by Judge Christopher Hite.
The prosecutor in that case is California attorney general Xavier Becerra, who took over the case from current Democratic 2020 candidate Kamala Harris. Both have wholeheartedly supported Planned Parenthood and received perks and laurels from the mammoth abortion provider for their trouble.
Perhaps the most telling moment of all the lawsuits occurred in that case, when longtime California abortionist Dr Forrest Smith testified, shockingly, on behalf of Daleiden, saying that even he cannot support Planned Parenthood’s reckless modus operandi when it comes to procuring fetal body parts.
‘There’s no question in my mind that at least some of these fetuses were live births,’ Smith told the court when asked whether the controversial, more aggressive abortion procedure Planned Parenthood executives describe in one of the undercover videos could result in the delivery of a live infant. ‘Very few people in abortion, outside of Planned Parenthood, do that.’
In other words, beyond the legal weeds and the rhetoric coming out of both sides, the grisly considerations backdropping these lawsuits extend far beyond a simple abortion debate to practices that managed to raise the eyebrow of even the most seasoned abortionist.