Judge blocks David Daleiden from releasing undercover videos of abortion conference

David Daleiden, founder of the pro-life Center for Medical Progress, talks to C-SPAN ahead of the 43rd annual March for Life in Washington D.C. on January 22, 2016.
David Daleiden, founder of the pro-life Center for Medical Progress, talks to C-SPAN ahead of the 43rd annual March for Life in Washington D.C. on January 22, 2016. | C-SPAN via Screenshot/C-SPAN

A federal judge issued a summary judgment barring pro-life activist David Daleiden’s organization from releasing hundreds of hours of undercover videos filmed during an abortion conference. 

U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick for the Northern District of California issued a ruling last week in National Abortion Federation v. Center for Medical Progress, et al.

Orrick, an Obama appointee, gave the NAF a permanent injunction against the release of any CMP videos or other recordings featuring the abortion organization’s private meetings.

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Orrick, who has issued rulings against Daleiden and his pro-life group in the past, concluded that the recordings of the NAF annual meetings constituted a “breach of contract.”

“The scope of the requested permanent injunction is broader than the Preliminary Injunction,” the judge explained in his ruling last Wednesday.

“It effects a permanent dispossession of the recordings and NAF Materials from defendants and adds a provision barring defendants and their agents from entering or attempting to enter NAF offices or events by misrepresenting their identity or with the intent to take video or audio recordings.”

Orrick wrote that he had reviewed the unreleased videos of the meetings. He insisted that they “disclosed no criminal activity.”

“Simply put, while some part of the [Human Capital Project videos] resulted in government investigations, criminal prosecutions and regulatory activity, there is at most a weak connection between those activities and the specific NAF Materials covered by the Preliminary Injunction,” he added.

NAF President and CEO Katherine Ragsdale called the ruling “incredibly important to the safety and security of our members.”

“Without a permanent injunction, there is no question that David Daleiden would continue releasing footage from our meetings, which would result in cycles of harassment and violence against NAF, our members, and other abortion providers as we have seen repeatedly and consistently happen with each video release since 2015,” Ragsdale said in a statement.

On his Twitter account, Daleiden, who has spent the last several years fighting court battles over his undercover work, asked what “on the footage from abortion industry tradeshows [are] [Planned Parenthood] leaders are so desperate to cover up?”

“Maybe it has something to do with the baby parts companies sponsoring the tradeshow? Maybe with our expert who says the convos show infanticide? The truth must be revealed,” tweeted Daleiden.

A lawyer representing Daleiden and CMP argued in a statement that the judge's ruling "strikes at the heart of the First Amendment."

“The American people deserve to see and hear what the abortion providers of this country are willing to say and do to skirt and even violate the law,"  Thomas More Society Vice President and Senior Counsel Peter Breen said in a statement. "We will appeal this decision, to vindicate David Daleiden’s rights and the rights of every brave undercover journalist in this country and to hold bad actors like the National Abortion Federation to account.”

In 2015, Daleiden and CMP released a series of undercover videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials and other abortion providers engaging in illegal activities.

The videos caused much controversy, leading to investigations at the state and federal level and years of litigation over the legality of the footage and its release.

In November 2019, a California jury ruled that Daleiden and the CMP were liable for their undercover videos of Planned Parenthood, ordering them to pay $870,000 in punitive damages.

The legal nonprofit Thomas More Society, which is helping to represent Daleiden in his various legal battles, vowed at the time to appeal the jury decision.

“This lawsuit is payback for David Daleiden exposing Planned Parenthood’s dirty business of buying and selling fetal parts and organs,” Breen said at the time.

“We intend to seek vindication for David on appeal. His investigation into criminal activity by America’s largest abortion provider utilized standard investigative journalism techniques, those applied regularly by news outlets across the country.”

In April 2020, Orrick cited the jury ruling when ordering activists connected to CMP to pay over $1.2 million in damages in response to an Unfair Competition Law claim.

Last year, CMP released documents and videos that included sworn testimony from Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood's senior director of medical services. She said that she was aware that Planned Parenthood Los Angeles was “receiving payments for fetal tissue."

Nucatola went on to say she did not look into whether PPLA complied with federal law regarding the payments the clinic received for the fetal tissue.  

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