Planned Parenthood Wins $2.4 Million Lawsuit Against Pro-Life Activists Who Conducted Undercover Investigation
- Milton Quintanilla Contributor for ChristianHeadlines.com
- Published Oct 26, 2022
A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously ruled on Friday that David Daleiden and other pro-life activists must pay $2.4 million to Planned Parenthood for conducting an undercover investigation into the abortion giant’s harvesting of fetal tissue.
Circuit Court Judge Ronald M. Gould, who authored the panel opinion, dismissed arguments that the pro-life activists’ actions were protected by the First Amendment.
“Invoking journalism and the First Amendment does not shield individuals from liability for violations of laws applicable to all members of society. None of the laws Appellants violated was aimed specifically at journalists or those holding a particular viewpoint,” Gould wrote in the opinion.
“The two categories of compensatory damages permitted by the district court, infiltration damages and security damages, were awarded by the jury to reimburse Planned Parenthood for losses caused by Appellants’ violations of generally applicable laws.”
Gould also noted that the ruling “does not impose a new burden on journalists or undercover investigations using lawful means.”
“From the beginning of their scheme, Appellants engaged in illegal conduct—including forging signatures, creating and procuring fake driver’s licenses, and breaching contracts—that the jury found so objectionable as to award Planned Parenthood punitive damages,” he continued.
“In affirming Planned Parenthood’s compensatory damages from Appellants’ First Amendment challenge, we simply reaffirm the established principle that the pursuit of journalism does not give a license to break laws of general applicability.”
Conversely, Gould reversed a lower court’s decision that found the pro-life activists guilty of violating the Federal Wiretap Act, which “requires that the criminal or tortious purpose be independent of and separate from the purpose of the recording.”
“Planned Parenthood runs afoul of this requirement by reusing the same criminal purpose—furthering the civil RICO scheme to destroy Planned Parenthood—as both the purpose of the civil RICO claim and the independent criminal or tortious purpose,” Gould said.
“Planned Parenthood’s argument is circular: according to Planned Parenthood, the civil RICO conspiracy is furthered by the recordings, and the recordings themselves further the ongoing civil RICO conspiracy. Such reasoning is not permitted by [the Act].”
According to The Christian Post, overturning the federal wiretap part of the verdict removes $100,000 of the over $2.4 million in compensatory damages.
On Friday, Daleiden’s group, the Center for Medical Progress, criticized the panel’s decision in a statement.
“A Ninth Circuit panel decided with this ruling today that protecting Planned Parenthood’s barbaric practices of partial-birth abortion and trafficking of aborted fetuses for government-sponsored experiments is more important than protecting the First Amendment rights of journalists and of the public,” the statement reads.
“In order to do this, the panel had to contradict its own precedents about undercover reporting on any other topic, disregard other Circuits’ en banc findings of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood and bless the increasing weaponization of the justice system against pro-life speech,” the group wrote.
“The tide of history is turning against the panel’s obsolete pro-abortion exceptionalism, and we will appeal until the constitutional rights of reporters and the public prevail,” they concluded.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Michael Thomas/Stringer
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.