By Samantha Gobba
WASHINGTON (BP) — Lawyers for David Daleiden appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court last week over the ongoing litigation suppressing his undercover videos.
During the 2014 and 2015 National Abortion Federation (NAF) annual conventions, the 28-year-old pro-life activist filmed undercover videos of Planned Parenthood workers allegedly discussing the illegal fetal tissue trade and late-term abortion procedures. In 2015, NAF filed suit, and Judge William Orrick issued a gag order to prevent the videos’ release.
Orrick ruled that if Daleiden released the videos to the public, Planned Parenthood and its affiliates could face “harassment, intimidation, violence, invasion of privacy, and injury to reputation.” But Thomas More Society attorney Tom Brejcha, who helped craft the latest appeal, said journalists’ free speech rights are more important.
“The notion that government needs to filter the truth and wield the censor’s scissors is anathema here in our United States, and we trust that the Supreme Court will not abide this unprecedented suppression of truth and will soon let it be shared openly with all of our fellow citizens,” Brejcha said. “[The] First Amendment does not permit anybody to be insulated against the scrutiny of law enforcement or freed from political embarrassment.”
The NAF lawsuit is just one of several legal battles the Center for Medical Progress has faced. Last year, a Houston jury indicted Daleiden and fellow pro-life activist Sandra Merritt for their undercover videos.
Later, a judge dismissed all the charges.
In March, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra charged Daleiden and Merritt with 15 felony counts each, but a court dismissed all but two of those charges in June.
The videos currently under injunction include hundreds of hours of footage. Daleiden previously said that amounts to about half the total footage the Center for Medical Progress gathered, including some of the most “incriminating footage that I ever recorded.”
In May, Orrick ordered YouTube to remove a video depicting abortionists admitting to performing illegal partial-birth abortions and calling abortion “killing.” The video was one of the many under injunction, but Daleiden’s lawyers released it on their website, saying they had the right to post it.
Later, Daleiden’s lawyers requested Orrick recuse himself from presiding over the case because of his ties to Planned Parenthood. They noted he still served on the board of a hospital that donates space to a Planned Parenthood abortion center, and that his wife Caroline Orrick recently supported the abortion giant on Facebook. Orrick denied the bias claims, and another judge sided with Orrick.
Last month, a federal judge found Daleiden and two of his lawyers in contempt of court for the unauthorized video release.
Brejcha said a Supreme Court review of the ongoing case will be pivotal to maintaining our nation’s free speech laws.
“What is ultimately at stake here is whether those who ‘blow the whistle’ on illegal or inhumane misbehavior in any industry may be silenced and even punished for telling the truth to the public at large and to those charged with enforcing criminal and regulatory bans on nefarious practices,” Brejcha said. “Whether America will remain an open or closed society hangs in the balance.”
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.