Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) who are using public tax dollars to purchase aborted baby parts are embroiled in a court battle to keep their identities secret. The case, Jane Does 1-10, et al v. David Daleiden, pits the university employees and abortion facility personnel against David Daleiden, the investigative journalist with The Center for Medical Progress, best known for undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s alleged involvement in the trafficking of aborted baby body parts. Daleiden is trying to exercise his rights to see the public documents relating to the purchase and use of these body parts.
The UW researchers are public employees using taxpayer funds for their fetal tissue research program, but they do not want to be identified, claiming that the First Amendment gives them the right to remain anonymous. Their fight to keep their identities secret is puzzling, given that many abortion advocates believe in the necessity of fetal stem cell research, despite research showing otherwise. It raises the question of whether these researchers are ashamed of their work, or perhaps fearful that if their names are made public, it could be detrimental to their careers.
Under Washington State’s Public Record’s Act, Daleiden has a right to see the public records. The Thomas More Society, representing Daleiden in the case, explains that the UW employees “have gone to court to force heavy redactions to the public documents. However, that is contrary to the law, which says that those documents must be released because they detail their work procuring, processing, and transferring the organs and tissue of aborted babies in connection with the university’s large taxpayer-funded fetal tissue research program.”
The university workers initially won their argument at the district court level, but a panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision. The case returned to the District Court and is now once again before the Court of Appeals.
Thomas More Society Special Counsel Peter Breen argued, “The fight over abortion has been going on for 50 years. The university employees claim that their First Amendment rights are being ‘chilled.’ Several of the Does have spoken publicly about their views on abortion. How can you say that you are being ‘chilled’ if you’ve put yourself out there in national media on the abortion issue?”
“Facilitating fetal tissue donations is in no way an expressive activity, and is in no way a protected First Amendment activity,” added Breen. “First Amendment privacy has never been used to cloak government workers on government time.”