SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A Planned Parenthood doctor who was surreptitiously recorded by anti-abortion activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt at a National Abortion Federation conference in San Francisco said her sense of security was shaken after a video of what she thought was a private conversation about fetal tissue donation was released online.
“My heart sank,” Dr. Leslie Drummond-Hay told a jury of nine men and three women Friday in a trial against Daleiden and his group, the Center for Medical Progress. “I didn’t want to become a target. I didn’t want to be out there in public. I felt frightened. “
Daleiden and his Center for Medical Progress associates Troy Newman, Albin Rhomberg and Gerardo Adrian Lopez are accused of fraud, breach of contract, unlawful recording of conversations, civil conspiracy and violation of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
Daleiden and Merritt posed as a fake tissue procurement company called BioMax and used fake IDs to access abortion industry conferences in 2014 and 2015 and secretly record conversations with Planned Parenthood staff. The videos were released in July 2015 as part of the center’s “Human Capital Project.” The heavily edited videos were couched as an exposé of abortion doctors reveling in the sale of fetal tissue and organs for medical research.
Planned Parenthood seeks hundreds of thousands of dollars for damage to its brand and increased security costs resulting from the videos.
Daleiden and Merritt also face criminal charges of eavesdropping and invasion of privacy.
Drummond-Hay, who has worked with Planned Parenthood for 30 years, testified Friday that she considers herself an extremely private person. While she works as an advice physician currently, most of her career has been spent providing abortion care.
“I had a dual identity. I kept my maiden name for work,” she said. “It’s actually a frightening job.” She said she wore a flak jacket to the clinic she worked at for several years in Cincinnati, as it had been firebombed in decades past.
At the National Abortion Federation conference, however, Drummond-Hay said she had felt secure. Conference attendees had to be vetted by the federation before registering and had to sign a confidentiality agreement that prohibited videotaping or recording.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Paul Jonna said that while Drummond-Hay had testified to her efforts to keep her work identity private, anyone could find her on the internet.
“It’s no secret that you’re an abortion provider,” he said. “It’s all over the internet.”
Defense attorneys also questioned Sheri Bonner, president of Planned Parenthood Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley, about security provided for former medical director Mary Gatter who was threatened online after Daleiden released a video of her.
Gatter had met with Daleiden and Merritt to discuss setting up a fetal tissue donation program at her Planned Parenthood affiliate. The video of that conversation featured an overlay from the Center for Medical Progress saying she was “haggling over fetal tissue.”
Bonner testified that Planned Parenthood PSGV spent $6,105 for a 24/7 armed guard to protect Gatter at her home and clinic for about a week. They also paid a website called reputation.com to scrub her personal information from the internet.
“I was worried about her safety,” Bonner said.
During cross-examination, Daleiden’s attorney Peter Breen veered into territory U.S. District Judge William Orrick had previously excluded, like the price of fetal tissue or abortion techniques being changed to obtain more valuable research specimens. In pretrial hearings, Orrick barred such evidence as prejudicial, irrelevant and possibly confusing to the jury.
“I’m not sure if you’ve been sitting in on all these sessions but I’ve made it very clear that I’m not interested in argument. I’m interested in you following the rules of the court,” Orrick said.
Charles LiMandri, another of Daleiden’s lawyers, asked Bonner if Gatter ever experienced “threats made to her in person or on the phone.”
Bonner said no but added, “If people are willing to break the law to make these videos, I don’t know what else they’re going to do.”
Video testimony from National Abortion Federation group purchasing manager Nichelle Davis was also played in court Friday to establish the extent to which the abortion industry group went to protect its members’ privacy.
“Confidentiality was part of everyday conversation at NAF,” she said.
Davis had arranged for BioMax to attend the 2014 conference as an exhibitor. She exchanged emails with someone named Brianna Allen, who was actually David Daleiden.
Planned Parenthood attorney Sharon Mayo asked Davis if she knew that she had been communicating with a phony company the entire time. Davis said no.
“If you had known that would BioMax have been disallowed from attending the 2014 conference?” Mayo asked.
Davis said, “Immediately.”
The trial is expected to continue through at least Nov. 8