Defending Daleiden: 8 Years Since David Daleiden’s First Undercover Video Exposing The Abortion Industry

July 14, 2023
Joe Barnas

July 14 marks eight years since David Daleiden published his first stomach-churning video, exposing the abortion industry’s illegal trafficking of aborted baby body parts—sending shockwaves across America. His videos shined a spotlight on the undeniable violence of abortion and spurred congressional hearings, controversy, policy reforms, state investigations, criminal prosecutions, and public debate—embarrassing the abortion industry’s Goliaths.

The disturbing footage, captured as part of an undercover investigation into Planned Parenthood’s role in the illegal trafficking of fetal tissue collection and sale, showed Dr. Deborah Nucatola—senior director of medical services at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, at the time—describing in gruesome detail how abortion providers alter the procedure for the explicit purpose of harvesting organs from victims of abortion.

In between mouthfuls, Nucatola openly and callously explained Planned Parenthood’s participation in the illegal trafficking of fetal tissue. “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact,” she said.

Moreover, she described how Planned Parenthood’s abortionists appear to have used partial-birth abortion techniques to harvest organs from unborn children. “I’d say a lot of people want liver. And for that reason, most providers will do this case under ultrasound guidance, so they’ll know where they’re putting their forceps,” she said.

She continued:

“And with the calvarium [the head of the unborn child], in general, some people will actually try to change the presentation so that it’s not vertex… So if you do it starting from the breech presentation, there’s dilation that happens as the case goes on, and often, the last step, you can evacuate an intact calvarium at the end.”

David’s raw footage of the meeting, totaling nearly three hours, may be viewed here.

Partial-birth abortion was banned by Congress in 2003, a prohibition which the United States Supreme Court upheld in 2007. In a 2019 deposition, under oath, Nucatola confirmed the use of methods associated with partial-birth abortion by Planned Parenthood abortionists.

Ever since publishing his videos exposing the abortion industry’s barbaric and illegal trafficking of aborted baby body parts, the abortion lobby and their allies in government have not rested in zealously targeting David.

Now, eight years later, David’s most critical lawsuits are reaching a climax. Here’s what you should know.

David Daleiden v. National Abortion Federation

In May, Thomas More Society attorneys petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for writ of certiorari, to hear David Daleiden’s appeal in the National Abortion Federation, or NAF, civil lawsuit against him and the Center for Medical Progress.

In NAF v. David Daleiden, a district court judge first ordered in 2015 a preliminary injunction against Daleiden and Center for Medical Progress, prohibiting them from reporting further material captured in their undercover investigation. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to overturn the preliminary injunction on Daleiden. In April 2021, the district court made permanent the “gag order” on Daleiden, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals once again affirmed the lower court. Since the original injunction against publishing, Daleiden has been prohibited from releasing more than 500 hours of additional footage he captured during his investigations. Moreover, the “gag order” significantly hampers his criminal defense, by not allowing him to freely use his own, unreleased footage in that defense.

Both the district court and the Ninth Circuit refused to consider Daleiden’s First Amendment right to publish—even though such a “gag order” is clearly an extreme “prior restraint” long held to be unconstitutional under the First Amendment. These rulings effectively protect the abortion industry from further embarrassment by prohibiting Daleiden from further publication, while ignoring constitutional questions of the highest importance.

Thomas More Society is now requesting that the U.S. Supreme Court hear Daleiden’s appeal and rule whether the lower courts erred in failing to consider his First Amendment right to publish. The implications of this appeal are far-reaching and will have an impact on the First Amendment rights of all undercover investigative journalists, no matter the issue they report on.

David Daleiden v. Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Also in May, Thomas More Society attorneys filed a second petition for writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the court to review Daleiden’s appeal in his case against Planned Parenthood Federation of America, or PPFA.

In Planned Parenthood’s legal battle against David Daleiden and his Center for Medical Progress—brought in retaliation for his critical investigative reporting—the district court entered a judgment for more than $2 million, and nearly $14 million in attorney’s fees.

Planned Parenthood did not sue Daleiden for defamation—in fact, Planned Parenthood never made the legal claim that Daleiden’s reporting was false. Despite that, the public-relations fallout of Daleiden’s undercover investigation into unlawful and unethical conduct at Planned Parenthood was converted into “economic damages” and foisted on Daleiden, with attorney’s fees, in a crippling $16 million judgment.

The district court claimed that “[t]he First Amendment is not a defense” against Planned Parenthood’s claims, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals also decided that no First Amendment scrutiny can be applied in this matter.

In nearly every prior case, undercover journalists have received strong First Amendment protections, which is why we are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear this appeal. If the financially ruinous judgment against David is allowed to stand, every undercover journalist in the country will face the threat of ruinous damages for critical investigative reporting—chilling speech nationwide no matter the issue at stake.

People of the State of California v. David Daleiden & Sandra Merritt

Alongside petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to review David Daleiden’s appeals in his civil cases against NAF and PPFA, he continues to face nine criminal felony charges in California state court.

In April 2016, Daleiden’s home was raided, and his videos confiscated by California’s then-Attorney General, Kamala Harris. He was subsequently charged with 15 criminal felony counts by her successor, Xavier Becerra. After Thomas More Society attorneys successfully secured the dismissal of several counts, Daleiden was indicted on the remaining nine felony counts in December 2019, under California’s anti-eavesdropping statute and fake I.D. law.

Daleiden’s criminal trial in San Francisco County Superior Court has now been scheduled to begin in early November 2023. His freedom hangs in the balance in the coming months.

We are continuing to defend and seek justice for David Daleiden, against the abortion industry and its allies. All three of these cases will have significant implications not just for the pro-life movement, but also for journalists’ First Amendment protections nationwide.