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Defamation trial begins in pregnancy porn promotion case

Doula defendants take the stand against a fellow birth worker they accused of enticing women into creating maternity and breastfeeding porn.

HONOLULU (CN) — A group of women accused of defaming a Honolulu-based birth supporter and maternity photographer by participating in a social media campaign that labeled him a “predatory pimp” testified in federal court on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Danny Gallagher first brought a defamation complaint in September of 2018, claiming that a laundry list of defendants, many of whom work in the maternity and birthing industry, defamed him by engaging in social media activity that alleged he was luring women into participating in pregnancy-based sex work and engaging in other sexually inappropriate behavior with mothers and pregnant women. Gallagher claims in the suit that the allegations have ruined his reputation and cost him future employment and income.

The accusations came after Gallagher posted an article detailing a woman’s success in creating erotic content based around pregnancy and lactation in a doula Facebook group. In the post’s comments, Gallagher had represented that he had previously helped women in Hawaii with the production of this kind of adult content and that he had the marketing experience to do so. He talked up the possible financial gain from creating specific pregnancy kink niche content.

The trial began Monday, and U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi heard testimony from several witnesses beginning on Tuesday from the suit’s defendants, many of whom are employed in or active in the female dominated birthing support community.

Kate Pavlovsky, a doula based in Texas, testified over video call that she initially reached out to Gallagher after the post because of how enticing he made it sound. Despite this, she later posted and shared several inflammatory posts alleging how Gallagher manipulated and groomed women into creating erotic material to post online. Pavlovsky will take the stand again in person later in the week.

Megan Kau, attorney for the plaintiff, emphasized throughout the proceedings that nothing Gallagher did could be construed as “pimping out” or “brokering” women for sex work.

The court also heard testimony from Sam Ross, who shared that she had taken three flights to get to Hawaii from Australia to speak on Gallagher’s behalf. Ross, a doula and erotic pregnancy content creator, emphasized that she had never felt uncomfortable with Gallagher’s participation in the production of her content, saying that she never felt forced or groomed into producing the content on Gallagher’s behalf.

Ross said, “I am here because I am mom of four sons, and I am concerned that someone’s livelihood can be taken down by rumors like this.”

Vivian Chau Best, who posted in a Facebook group consisting of mutual online friends of Gallagher that Gallagher was a “predator who infiltrated the birthing world” took the stand on Wednesday to explain that she was looking to protect other women when she made her post.

Kau questioned why Best did not investigate and verify the information she received from a friend regarding Gallagher’s alleged misconduct before making the defaming post.

“I am not a police officer,” Best said. “I believe women, as a personal value, and I felt it was more important that women in Hawaii were protected.”

Judge Kobayashi contrasted the suit to the Amber Heard/Johnny Depp case, which she said mainly involved one accused individual and a singular incidence of defamation, rather than the complex web of multiple defamatory statements across multiple posts in different groups by different people that this case presents.

Complicated by the nature of social media, the lawsuit has gone through several iterations since its initial 2018 filing, with various dismissals and amendments to add more defendants as posts about Gallagher went viral among birthing and mothers' Facebook groups. The suit currently names Pavlovsky, Anne Croudace, and Jane Hopaki, represented by Eric Seitz and Kevin Yolkan, as well as Best and Emilee Saldaya, represented by Nadine Ando. The final defendants, Stephanie Byers and Bethany Kirillov, who were not present, are proceeding pro se.

Croudace, continuing from Wednesday’s statements, Saldaya and Hopaki are slated to take the stand on Thursday.

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