Free speech at stake in NAF lawsuit against CMP as judge is set to issue opinion
A federal judge has ruled that secret recordings from a pro-life group who infiltrated a National Abortion Federation meeting to expose a grisly baby parts harvesting operation does not show criminal activity, according to a report by the Associated Press.
In July, the National Abortion Federation (NAF) sued the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) accusing CMP of using fake names, infiltration, and hidden cameras to obtain the damning evidence. San Francisco Judge William Orrick granted NAF a temporary restraining order to prevent the release of the tapes. But, while the effort to suppress the videos were making their way through the courts,GotNews.com published them, claiming they were leaked to them by a hacker.
In their lawsuit, NAF claimed that CMP infiltrators “snuck into” their allegedly secure and supposedly private meetings to obtain video evidence that their members were buying fetal tissue. In response to the lawsuit, CMP claimed that their investigators conducted their investigation legally, and that NAF welcomed lead investigator David Daleiden and the other investigators as dealers in fetal tissue believing that Daleiden’s test company, BioMax, would pay abortion providers for fetal specimens. “NAF even provided Daleiden unsolicited information about the meeting’s agenda and location,” attorney’s for CMP stated.
But, according to the AP report, Judge Orrick does not agree. From the story:
Recordings secretly made by an anti-abortion group at meetings of abortion providers do not show criminal activity and could put the providers at risk, a federal judge said Friday, citing the recent shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic.
U.S. District Judge William Orrick made the comments during a hearing over the National Abortion Federation’s request for a preliminary injunction that would continue to block the release of the recordings. Orrick did not immediately issue a ruling. He previously issued a temporary restraining order blocking the recordings pending the outcome of the preliminary injunction hearing.
Pro-lifers who have viewed the leaked tapes say that the NAF lawsuit is equivalent to censorship because NAF does not want the public to know the truth about abortion. The videos show plenty of evidence that NAF members were not only involved in harvesting fetal tissue but were holding presentations about the process during their meetings. A sampling of a few of the recordings show that NAF members:
Conference attendees applauding horrific late-term abortion procedure
NAF held presentations on harvesting aborted baby parts
NAF members and a majority of the women they service know they are killing a baby
Abortion clinics dispose of preborn children in garbage disposals
Burning aborted babies for energy fuel may really be happening
A cold and callous disregard for the dead
A Planned Parenthood abortionist and NAF attendee admitted being involved in fetal tissue research with, “independent / individual researchers”
Continuing with the AP report:
Orrick made a statement that doctors who appeared in CMP’s videos have received death threats. He also cited suspected arson at abortion clinics and the November shooting at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic that left three people dead and nine wounded.
Catherine Short, an attorney for the Center for Medical Progress, said there was no evidence the Colorado shooter was motivated by the group’s videos or that doctors have been directly threatened. The release of the recordings is vital to furthering public discussion about topics such as whether the country’s abortion laws are too loosely written, she said. The center says in court documents its work is the equivalent of investigative journalism and protected by the First Amendment.
And, Short is correct, investigative journalism is not only protected by the First Amendment but the tactics used by CMP have been used by journalists in all sorts of investigations as Live Action News has detailed here. In fact, free speech issues in this case are so great that the U.S. Reporters’ Committee filed a ‘friend of the Court’ submission before the district court hearing NAF’s case, protesting that ‘any prior restraint on speech that is issued by a court has the potential to significantly affect the First Amendment rights of the news media and the public at large.’
we are compelled to write at this early juncture because any prior restraint on speech that is issued by a court has the potential to significantly affect the First Amendment rights of the news media and the public at large. The ramifications of having such a restraint in place go well beyond the unique facts of this dispute, they wrote.
Tom Brejcha, Thomas More Society President and Chief Counsel which presented arguments against NAF in the case agreed accusing NAF of working with Planned Parenthood to suppress Daleiden’s First Amendment rights.
“Equally as any other investigative journalist working for ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, or your local print or electronic media outlet may regularly resort to undercover journalism tactics to ferret out hidden crime, so too David Daleiden should have the right to penetrate the criminal underworld of America’s abortion providers and report all the evidence he has uncovered of criminal wrongdoing to law enforcement and to members of the public.”
The brief that Thomas More Society and co-counsel have filed on behalf of Daleiden in opposition to NAF’s preliminary injunction includes:
Information about the precedent set by the recent Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Otter case, where the 9th Circuit ruled definitively that investigative journalism is not “fraud” and fully protected by the First Amendment.
Admissions from NAF and Planned Parenthood abortion providers about their criminal participation in trafficking in aborted baby body parts documented at NAF meetings, redacted from the public filing and prevented from release by court order.
The blatantly unconstitutional character of prior restraints on speech.
“If NAF wins this case, criminals will rejoice and journalists will weep,” Brejcha said.
Both sides are watching for the decision to be released.