Judge Blocks Release of Secret Recordings of Abortion Conference

Anti-abortion activist David Daleiden cannot release conversations with abortion providers secretly recorded at National Abortion Federation conferences in 2014 and 2015.

Anti-abortion activist David Daleiden.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — In an order echoing a previous decision exactly one year ago that permanently banned anti-abortion activist David Daleiden and his associates from Planned Parenthood health centers and events, a federal judge on Wednesday barred the group from releasing recordings surreptitiously taken at National Abortion Federation meetings.

The ruling from U.S District Judge William Orrick III follows a $2 million civil verdict in favor of Planned Parenthood against Daleiden, fellow activist Sandra Merritt, his anti-abortion group the Center for Medical Progress, and two other collaborators for infiltrating abortion conferences with the aim of exposing the illegal fetal tissue sales.

Hoping to catch an abortion provider admitting to selling human tissue for profit, Daleiden and Merritt posed as exhibitors from the phony human tissue procurement company BioMax in order to secretly record conversations. 
Some abortion doctors received death threats after those recordings were released posted online starting in 2015 as part of the Center for Medical Progress’ “Human Capital Project.”

Orrick limited his injunction to apply only to the 2014 and 2015 NAF meetings, where he found Daleiden and his group had breached NAF’s exhibitor agreements.

“The request to cover ‘any’ NAF meeting no matter where or when held or how defendants may access them is overbroad, unsupported, and not appropriate,” Orrick wrote, adding, “While defendants’ First Amendment rights do not defeat a permanent injunction restricting their access to and use of the NAF materials they secured only because of the breach of the NAF agreements, those rights do require a significant narrowing of the scope of relief.”

Orrick said the broad scope of the permanent injunction he issued in favor of Planned Parenthood is “not directly relevant” to the NAF case, as Planned Parenthood went to trial on a host of other claims.

The National Abortion Federation agreed to stay their civil conspiracy, promissory fraud, and fraudulent misrepresentation claims, so that Orrick could swiftly decide its breach of contract claim, and whether to enter a permanent injunction in the organization’s favor.

Having presided over the Planned Parenthood trial where federation members and staff testified, Orrick said he found the federation had adequately alleged irreparable harm absent an injunction that bars the 2014 and 2015 recordings from being released. 

“Our case was always about the injunction and protecting our members,” NAF attorney Derek Foran with Morrison and Foerster said Wednesday. “It’s a great day for NAF and its members. They were subject of a fraudulent infiltration that put them at risk and to get this injunction permanent is a very big deal and we’re absolutely thrilled.”

Foran said that Orrick’s injunction “effectively ends the case,” though Daleiden can still appeal to the Ninth Circuit.

In an emailed statement late Wednesday, Daleiden said the public should be allowed to view the footage.

“What is on the footage of public conversations at abortion industry trade shows that Planned Parenthood leadership is so desperate to cover up?” he said. “Our expert Dr. Forrest Smith, the country’s longest-practicing abortion provider, says it shows the quid pro quo sale of fetal body parts, abuse of patients, and infanticide — but Judge Orrick insists he sees nothing wrong with it, yet won’t let the public decide for themselves. This decision hides the most incriminating and damning footage under the fig leaf of trade show exhibit agreements which explicitly permitted exhibitor recording. This transparent attempt to skew the law and suppress free speech to protect the worst wrongdoing must stop, and the truth must be revealed.”

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