By Micaiah Bilger
A federal appeals court ruled against David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress on Friday, rejecting most of their appeal challenging a $2.4 million fine for their undercover investigation of Planned Parenthood and its aborted baby body parts harvesting practices.
Reuters reports a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the argument that their undercover investigation is protected under the First Amendment freedom of the press.
In 2019, a federal judge sided with Planned Parenthood in a case accusing Daleiden and other undercover investigators with the Center for Medical Progress of illegally creating a fake company, fake IDs and recording its employees without their permission. The judge awarded the abortion chain $2.4 million plus $13 million in fees. Daleiden and his lawyers are challenging the $13 million in a separate appeal, according to Reuters.
Daleiden and CMP appealed, but the Ninth Circuit rejected most of their arguments this week.
According to Reuters, Justice Ronald Gould said the First Amendment does not protect illegal activity, and there is an “established principle that the pursuit of journalism does not give a license to break laws of general applicability.”
However, the court did overturn another part of the ruling that accused Daleiden and CMP of violating the Federal Wiretap Act, the report continues.
Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel of the Thomas More Society, which is representing Daleiden, said the ruling contradicts three decades of precedent protecting journalists’ free speech.
“This decision provides a roadmap for large corporations to shut down and bankrupt investigative journalists who would expose their wrongdoing,” Breen said. “We will appeal this decision to the en banc full panel of judges of the Ninth Circuit. Every American should be disturbed by this decision, which stabs at the heart of the First Amendment …”
In 2019, Planned Parenthood, a billion-dollar abortion chain, won its lawsuit against Daleiden and CMP at a jury trial. The abortion group accused the undercover investigators of more than a dozen crimes, including trespassing, breach of confidentiality, wiretapping and conspiracy for their undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s aborted baby body parts trade. Notably, it did not accuse the pro-life investigators of defamation.
The jury and Judge William Orrick, who has ties to Planned Parenthood, awarded the abortion group $16 million in the case.
In the appeal, Daleiden’s lawyers said the ruling poses a threat to the freedom of the press guaranteed in the First Amendment. They pointed out that Planned Parenthood never proved in court that the Center for Medical Progress videos were false or defamatory; quite the opposite, its lawyers admitted the videos were authentic.
“In allowing Planned Parenthood’s case to go forward without proving the video reporting was false, Judge Orrick denied CMP’s First Amendment rights and protections for speech, blocked significant discovery on Planned Parenthood’s fetal research practices, and forbade any defense based on the truth of the video reporting,” according to the Center for Medical Progress.
It noted that Orrick also excluded the expert testimony of Dr. Forrest O. Smith, an abortionist who testified in favor of CMP even though he is not pro-life. Smith agreed that the videos uncovered evidence of infants being delivered alive and killed through organ harvesting at Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood accused Daleiden and CMP of “fraud” and “breach of contract” because the undercover investigators posed as employees of a non-existent fetal tissue procurement company, used fake IDs and recorded people without their permission.
But his lawyers said the IDs were creative props that were never used for government identification purposes, and the recorded conversations were in public areas where third parties easily could overhear them.
Daleiden and the CMP investigation did a lot of damage to Planned Parenthood when they revealed the abortion giant’s baby body parts operation. Not only did it raise concerns about potentially illegal sales of human body parts, but it also uncovered evidence of abortionists allegedly putting women’s lives at risk by altering abortion procedures to better harvest aborted baby parts. The investigators also found evidence of possible patient privacy violations.
These findings prompted investigations by the U.S. House and Senate, as well as a number of states. The House and Senate investigations both recommended that the Department of Justice investigate Planned Parenthood after finding strong evidence that the abortion chain broke the law. The Department of Justice is investigating.
Two of Planned Parenthood’s business partners in Orange County, California also admitted to selling aborted baby body parts in a $7.8 million settlement with the county district attorney’s office.
However, Planned Parenthood repeatedly has denied all allegations of wrong-doing, and many news outlets now parrot its talking points that the undercover videos were deceptively edited or debunked. An independent forensics investigation verified that the videos were authentic.
Some undercover videos show how Planned Parenthood employees callously and flippantly negotiated the price of tiny baby hearts, lungs, livers and brains. Other evidence indicates the abortion giant may have broken HIPAA patient privacy laws.