Planned Parenthood filed a federal civil lawsuit on Thursday against the project leader of the Irvine-based Center for Medical Progress (CMP) anti-abortion group that secretly recorded Planned Parenthood staff and executives discussing the donation of fetal tissue.
Filed in San Francisco and seeking unspecified damages, the suit alleges that David Daleiden and five others broke state and federal law by creating false identities, engaging in mail and wire fraud, breaking confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements, and violating privacy by illegally recording conversations. The litigation also names CMP and BioMax, a fake medical firm, as defendants.
Released last summer, as Congress was weighing whether to withhold all or some of the $528 million in government funding Planned Parenthood receives for women's health services, the nine-minute undercover video purported to show staff members of the nonprofit discussing the illegal sale of fetal tissue.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America's Senior Director of Medical Services Dr. Deborah Nucatola is shown at what she believes to be a business lunch with buyers from a human biologics company, but they were actually actors. Nucatola describes how Planned Parenthood sells the body parts of aborted fetuses, admitting she uses partial-birth abortions to supply intact body parts. The sale or purchase of human fetal tissue is a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.
In just a few days, more than 2 million people had viewed the video, which sparked demands for state and federal investigations and created campaign fodder for anti-abortion presidential candidates like Republican Carly Fiorina.
But Planned Parenthood claimed selective editing was done with the footage that was released, unequivocally denied the allegations and those state and Congressional investigations of it? They have shown no evidence of wrongdoing.
And so the tables now turn ...
“The people behind this fraud lied and broke the law in order to spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “This lawsuit exposes the elaborate, illegal conspiracy designed to block women’s access to safe and legal abortion, and we filed the case to hold them accountable.”
Planned Parenthood says the months-long investigation into Daleiden and CMP revealed a "video smear campaign" organized by a network of anti-abortion extremists.
Daleiden and some of his co-defendants are accused of having used aliases, obtained fake government identification and created a fake company (BioMax) to gain access to medical conferences and health care centers. The release of dubious videos led to death threats against staff and doctors who were surreptitiously recorded, Planned Parenthood claims.
So who is this Daleiden fellow? A Roman Catholic who comes from Sacramento, Daleiden first got involved in the pro-life movement at age 15, when he was mentored by college-age activists before starting an anti-abortion club at his high school and participating in the "Genocide Awareness Project" to show images of aborted fetuses to the public. He met another young anti-abortion activist, Lila Rose, the president of Live Action, which has been criticized before for deceptively editing undercover footage of abortion clinics in an attempt to smear Planned Parenthood.
Daleiden began three years of studies at Claremont McKenna College in 2007 and a year later founded a Live Action chapter there. In March 2009, he and other students were banned from CMC's sister campus Pomona College, where they'd gone to videotape a Planned Parenthood speaker denying the organization's cover-up of a statutory rape. The ban was later lifted.
A 2009 CMC article claimed Daleiden was a friend of James O'Keefe, who along with Hannah Giles posed as pimp and prostitute respectively to secretly record employees of the inner-city community organization ACORN give advice on how to avoid paying taxes and shield them from the law. As with Daleiden's Planned Parenthood footage, O'Keefe's ACORN videos were labeled misleading and severely edited.
According to state records, Daleiden is listed as an officer with The Center For Medical Progress, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that gives the address 15333 Culver Dr, Ste 340-819, Irvine, CA 92604.
The CMP's presence online was nearly non-existent before the video was released last July, with its Facebook page showing no posts before May 24, 2015, and its Twitter account not opening until six days later. Here is how CMP describes itself on its website:
The Center for Medical Progress is a group of citizen journalists dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances. We are concerned about contemporary bioethical issues that impact human dignity, and we oppose any interventions, procedures, and experiments that exploit the unequal legal status of any class of human beings. We envision a world in which medical practice and biotechnology ally with and serve the goods of human nature and do not destroy, disfigure, or work against them.
Daleiden's online bio calls him the CMP founder and that he wrote for The Human Life Review and the conservative The Weekly Standard.
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David Daleiden is a citizen journalist with nearly a decade of experience in conducting investigative research on the abortion industry. In 2013, David started The Center for Medical Progress as a vehicle through which to pursue sophisticated, in-depth, and scintillating investigative journalism projects pertaining to contemporary bioethical issues.
Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, is a member of the CMP Board of Directors, and Christian Newswire reported he provided "consultation services and material support" to Daleiden's 30-month, “Human Capital” investigation of Planned Parenthood. Newman called the murder of a Florida abortion clinic doctor "a justifiable defensive action," according to a press release he issued in 2003, and a year later the Los Angeles Times reported he stalked clinic workers.
Daleiden could not be reached for comment for this post, but he defended his investigation in the National Catholic Register.
“It is a paradox that we can’t have laws that recognize unborn babies as human, and yet, it is their very humanness that makes them valuable for experimentation,” Daleiden reportedly said. “It is as if they [the biotech companies] are going on a treasure hunt for the heads or hearts of babies, but how much more valuable would those heads and hearts be if they were allowed to grow up and be a part of society?”