Almost five years ago, Pro-Life activist and citizen journalist David Daleiden released groundbreaking investigative videos showing the abortion industry trafficking the body parts of babies killed in abortion. Daleiden and his colleague Sandra Merritt spent years working undercover to infiltrate executive circles in the abortion industry and pose as buyers for “fetal tissue,” the body parts of preborn babies violently killed in abortions.
The videos stunned the nation and destroyed the façade of the abortion industry. However, in the years since releasing the videos, biased prosecutors have pursued not the apparent criminals, Planned Parenthood and their co-conspirators profiting from the sale of human body parts, but the whistleblowers who uncovered the alleged crimes.
Amid mismanagement and accusations of collusion, charges against Daleiden and Merritt have been dropped in some jurisdictions, including in Texas. In other places, most notably California, the journalists still face steep civil and criminal penalties that they will be fighting for years to come. Currently, Daleiden’s legal team is appealing an unjust ruling from November of last year that the Center for Medical Progress, Daleiden and Merritt’s investigative organization, must pay $2.3 million to America’s largest abortion business, Planned Parenthood.
At the same time, Daleiden faces criminal charges in California, and, if convicted, he could face jail time. Writing for the Federalist, attorney Thomas Brejcha describes the repercussions such a bogus case could have on investigative journalism, not only in Pro-Life activism but in all sectors of society. Brejcha is the founder, president, and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, which is representing Daleiden.
Brejcha writes that the fact that Daleiden has been arraigned on 10 felony charges related to recording conversations with abortion executives in public places could have “far wider implications for journalists.” The undercover recording practices that Daleiden and his team used are standard in investigative journalism, and Brejcha cites several examples of other journalists who successfully documented nefarious activity in this manner that would not have otherwise come to light.
Brejcha notes the glaring political bias behind the felony charges brought by then-California District Attorney and failed anti-Life presidential candidate Kamala Harris. Harris attempted to file 15 criminal charges against Daleiden for his investigative work. Six of those charges were thrown out by a blatantly anti-Life judge when even he could not ignore that such charges violated the First Amendment. While Harris pursued such aggressive prosecution of Daleiden, a concurrent undercover investigation of the poultry industry led California to investigate poultry businesses and the journalists in that case faced no charges.
Brejcha concludes, “No one can be blamed for thinking that the legal actions were inspired and carried out by pro-choice organizations to punish and silence their opponents. What does it tell you that the Daleiden case may have been the first time that any journalist has been criminally charged with violating the California recording law in the many years it has been on the books?”
Even anti-Life legal experts are able to recognize the highly damaging effects such prosecution could have on American journalism. Brejcha notes that anti-Life law professors have gone on the record stating, “Whatever the precise facts of this case prove to be, the prosecution has broader implications, and not just for abortion and anti-abortion speech. Undercover exposés play a vital role in informing the American public of important facts that would otherwise remain hidden.” Even the notoriously biased Los Angeles Times called the prosecution of Daleiden “disturbingly aggressive” and an “overreach.” Planned Parenthood, despite ongoing investigations, still has not faced any formal disciplinary action for the apparent crimes revealed in Daleiden’s investigation. Daleiden and Merritt, the journalists who uncovered the crimes, must continue to fight legal battles against tremendous odds. Follow Texas Right to Life for updates on the cases.