The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) and its founder, David Daleiden, are filing lawsuits against Planned Parenthood, former California Attorney General Kamala Harris, and current California Attorney General Xavier Becerra for conspiring to violate First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
The Center for Medical Progress made waves beginning in 2015 when it released a series of undercover recordings with Planned Parenthood executives and others, exposing the corporation’s involvement with the illegal trafficking of the body parts of aborted children. Planned Parenthood medical directors were seen on film, haggling over the price of “specimens,” discussing how they were able to harvest specific organs desired by procurement companies and researchers, and more.
According to the court filing, Daleiden is seeking justice for “brazen, unprecedented, and ongoing conspiracy” to use California’s laws to silence free speech.
“David Daleiden became the first journalist ever to be criminally prosecuted under California’s recording law, not because of the method of video recording he utilized in his investigation — which is common in investigative journalism in this state — but because his investigation revealed and he published ‘shock[ing]’ content that California’s Attorney General and the private party co-conspirators wanted to cover up,” the lawsuit reads. “Defendants seek their ‘pound of flesh’ from Mr. Daleiden and to chill other journalists from investigating and reporting on that same content.”
The content directly impacted Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry, with Planned Parenthood immediately seeking to minimize the damage to its reputation. Cecile Richards, the president at that time, claimed the corporation was merely reimbursed for costs associated with the harvesting of aborted body parts — a claim countered by a former employee of StemExpress, which collected those parts from Planned Parenthood.
Given the fact that these same undercover methods have been used to expose other crimes yet were not prosecuted, it appears that Harris and Becerra filed charges because CMP’s videos targeted abortion and Planned Parenthood. Other journalists have condemned CMP’s prosecution, seeing it as a blatant attack on the rights to free speech and free press. The U.S. Reporters’ Committee even filed a “friend of the court” submission opposing CMP’s prosecution.
“The California Attorney General first admitted that they are enforcing the video recording law solely based on how they feel about the message being published, and then further admitted they are not even trying to follow the text of the law as written,” Daleiden said in a statement. “CMP’s undercover reporting has been corroborated by the successful prosecution of fetal body parts sales we reported in southern California, multiple Congressional investigations, and forensic video analysis. It is every reporter’s First Amendment right to underscore the gravity of their findings, especially when the politically powerful disagree with them.”
Kamala Harris, a United States Senator and former Democratic presidential candidate, had a secret in-person meeting with Planned Parenthood executives (including witnesses) to discuss the investigation while she served as CA’s attorney general — and just two weeks later, Daleiden’s home was raided by the California Department of Justice. A motion previously filed by the Thomas More Society showed e-mail exchanges between Planned Parenthood and Harris’s office, working together to get the search warrant so they could obtain the unedited videos.
CA Attorney General Xavier Becerra, meanwhile, refused to investigate Planned Parenthood after the CMP footage showed its employees engaging in illegal activity. Instead, he chose to prosecute Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, the other investigator for CMP. When Becerra was elected as AG, Planned Parenthood publicly cheered him on as their “champion.”
The question now is whether constitutional rights will outweigh political interests in California.
“Our federal civil rights statutes were enacted in the wake of the darkest periods in our nation’s history,” Harmeet K. Dhillon, lead counsel on the complaint, said in a statement. “They are well-suited for the current civil rights crisis we face, a time when powerful politicians allow their special interest patrons to custom-order prosecutions that violate fundamental constitutional rights, and do so even with the knowledge that their actions are ultra vires [acting beyond one’s legal power or authority].”
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