Recently unsealed invoices confirmed that Planned Parenthood profited from selling usable specimens to StemExpress, a fetal procurement agency. This information verifies the results of a 2015 undercover investigation by David Daleiden and his Center for Medical Progress (CMP) team, an investigative endeavor that Planned Parenthood has attempted to frame as deceptive for years. Currently, Daleiden and fellow CMP journalist Sandra Merritt are facing criminal charges in a San Francisco court. In what is considered to be a blow to undercover journalism, this past fall, a civil trial found CMP liable for damages to the abortion provider.
With the unsealed invoices showcasing the validity of their work, the question remains as to what impact this will have on CMP’s case going forward, and what this could mean for the public’s perception of it.
“The jury verdict was $2.2 million roughly,” said Peter Breen, an attorney for Daleiden from the Thomas More Society who spoke with Live Action News about developments in the case. “That includes damages troubled because of the RICO claim and punitive damages. That doesn’t include [plaintiff] attorney fee claims, which would be in the millions of dollars.”
Breen discussed how CMP’s legal team is attempting to reduce the amount of the verdict. He commented that they’re always happy to get some relief, remarking that the jury verdict in the civil trial was “absolutely against every notion of justice.” Breen stated how it went “against the law as we understand it, and as the Constitution puts it.”
So far, Breen said, there’s been “limited success” when it comes to persuading the District Court to be receptive to these arguments.
“For many of these rulings… we’re going to need to bring a lot of requests to the District Court in order to preserve those issues to go up on appeal to the Ninth Circuit,” Breen said, sharing what he could disclose of the legal strategy for now. “So if we don’t get relief from the district judge, we would then be able to go up to the Ninth Circuit, and if we don’t get sufficient relief from the Ninth Circuit, we’ll take it to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
But there still remains another issue, and according to Breen, Planned Parenthood has asked for a “permanent injunction” against Daleiden and CMP. This would keep Daleiden, as well as anyone connected with CMP, from ever doing undercover work into the abortion provider again. Even though Planned Parenthood has requested the injunction, Breen says the District Court has not yet ruled on it.
Breen classified these injunctions as “very serious,” and said a ruling should come from the District Court any day now on the topic.
“You’d be taking one of the most skilled undercover journalists of our time and handcuffing him,” Breen stated, praising Daleiden’s efforts to expose criminal behavior in the abortion industry. “… David has been very active in that space, so what you’d be doing is taking one of the most effective people off the field.”
He continued, saying, “And really nowadays, where law enforcement has become so politicized… you can’t get a law enforcement official to investigate abortion clinic abuses. In [blue] [states] it’s often the undercover journalists who can get answers, who can uncover and document illegal activity and other offensive practices.”
Speaking on the unredacted invoice records, Breen said they were proof of an issue that “Daleiden has been banging the drum on… since day one.” The documents came from the abortion businesses themselves, and had been given to Daleiden’s legal team under “protective orders.” Now the filings are visible to the public, which is fortunate, as Breen recounted the many restrictions the defense faced in civil court.
“The documents that were revealed to the public are only a fraction of what is out there, and what should have been available to us in a robust discovery process that you would have in a normal case,” Breen said. “To some extent, this is an abortion case, so the rules are applied differently. Even though there’s no reason for rules to be applied differently in an abortion case than in a regular civil lawsuit.”
In regards to the response from StemExpress and Planned Parenthood to this new evidence, Breen stated that from what he understands, StemExpress has been “very quiet.” He surmised this is because the procurement agency is still trying to sell fetal parts, and these invoice records clearly show their business model is “illegal.”
While Planned Parenthood has maintained the videos are a “smear,” Breen pointed out that the abortion provider confirmed the accuracy of CMP’s discovered content in court. Unfortunately, most of the mainstream media have assisted Planned Parenthood by putting what Breen calls a “blackout” on details related to the case. As Daleiden and Merritt prepare for a criminal trial in San Francisco (a “very tough place” for pro-life people, says Breen), CMP needs all the help it can get.
The case could have a “chilling effect” on undercover journalism, and Breen described how the task now is to bring attention to it through new media, and present the evidence to wider audiences. While it’s wonderful to have the support of pro-life people, Breen stated it’s important to showcase proof like this to people who may be more “skeptical.”
Breen elaborated that all forms of undercover reporting — not just pro-life journalism — could be shut down if Daleiden and Merritt are convicted and sentenced to prison. He emphasized the need for “additional assistance” with other organizations that may be impacted by this decision by having them act as “friends of the court.”
“Right now, we are in the middle of this great battle,” Breen said. “The prayer support has been wonderful, spreading the word among your friends and family, your circles of influence; whenever you see articles, be sharing them…. We are up against some of the biggest law firms in the world…. We’re just very thankful and grateful for all of the contributions folks have made to the Thomas More Society.”
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