Is Planned Parenthood Setting Itself up for a Fall by its Own Sword?

In the summer of 2015, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a series of videos produced by its Human Capital Project. The Human Capital Project was a 30-month-long journalistic investigation led by David Daleiden. Daleiden and his team gathered hundreds of hours of undercover footage, dozens of eyewitness testimonies, and nearly 200 pages of primary source documents regarding Planned Parenthood's systematic sale of body parts from aborted fetuses. The videos included four edited summary videos and several videos of unedited investigative footage along with transcripts.

Not surprisingly, Planned Parenthood responded quickly with what amounted to gag orders, and the results of the Human Capital Project have been the subject of legal wrangling ever since.

The latest iteration is PPFA v. CMP, a federal civil jury trial currently underway in San Francisco. PPFA (Planned Parenthood Federation of America) says the case is about an attempt to destroy Planned Parenthood, and it has charged Daleiden and his colleagues with a veritable laundry list of violations including trespassing, fraud, breach of contract, and racketeering. Jenna Tosh, CEO of Planned Parenthood for the region, said on day one of the trial that the CMP videos were a call to violence.

Co-defendants Daleiden and Sandra Merritt maintain that they have followed all applicable laws and that the case is about undercover reporting, the First Amendment, and the rights of ordinary citizens to expose unethical and potentially illegal conduct on the part of a large and powerful corporation.

Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer, the journalist team behind the film Gosnell, sat down with David Daleiden at the end of day one. He was upbeat. "I think what comes through really clearly … is this lawsuit [is] a retaliatory lawsuit, and it's basically a cover-up. This entire case is a cover-up that's meant to distract from the findings and the admissions from Planned Parenthood leadership that are documented on the undercover videos [that Planned Parenthood was] vending human body parts from abortions like widgets on an assembly line." Not only is the lawsuit an attack on CMP as citizen journalists, he said, it's also an attack on the First Amendment and the First Amendment civil rights of all Americans to investigate issues of great public concern and to publish about them.

This trial could go on for weeks (CMP is posting regular updates here), but here is something to watch for as it plays out. One of the most telling things about the suit, Daleiden noted, is this: The one thing Planned Parenthood has not sued CMP for is defamation or libel or slander. In other words, Planned Parenthood is not claiming that the defendants have lied or that anything in the videos is untrue or inaccurate.

This sets up an interesting parallel with the Gosnell case. The most powerful testimonies in the Gosnell trial, Ann said, were the testimonies of the abortion doctors themselves as they described under oath exactly what they did (jurors were appalled). Similarly, the most powerful testimonies in this trial could well be the content of the videos themselves, in which Planned Parenthood representatives discuss exactly what they do – the truth and accuracy of which they are not contesting.

Sometimes gag orders and retaliatory measures have the opposite effect. In this case, in its attempt to squash little David, the abortion giant has opened up a way for his videos to be exposed to the light of public scrutiny. So, let the trial proceed, and may truth and justice prevail. And if a giant happens to fall, so much the better.

is a freelance writer and blogger on apologetics and matters of faith.
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