SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — A jury deciding a civil suit in California has awarded Planned Parenthood over $2 million after finding that pro-life activist David Daleiden and his Center for Medical Progress (CMP) caused “substantial harm” by posing as members of a biomedical procurement company and secretly recording their discussions with Planned Parenthood leadership in order to expose the abortion giant’s practices.
Daleiden and his colleague, Sandra Merritt, attended abortion industry conferences from 2013 to 2015 under the names Robert Sarkis and Susan Tennenbaum and with the impression that they were representatives of a company they called BioMax Procurement Services. They recorded their conversations as they sought to learn about Planned Parenthood’s abortion practices and harvesting partnerships.
CMP then publicly released video footage of the undercover investigation, showing various Planned Parenthood leaders and representatives of biomedical companies callously discussing extracting unborn children from the womb so that their body parts can be collected and sold for research.
“We’ve been using them for over 10 years, really a long time, [and we] just kind of renegotiated the contract,” Katherine Sheehan, the medical director for Planned Parenthood Pacific Southwest, said of Advanced Bioscience Resources (ABR) in one video. “They’re doing the big collections for government-level collections and things like that.”
“I literally have had women come in and they’ll go to the OR and they’re back out in three minutes, and I’m going, ‘What’s going on?’” Parrin Larton of ABR also explained. “Oh yeah, the fetus was already in the [birthing] canal. Whenever we put her in the stirrups, it just fell out.”
“But most of the time, it is not intact,” she added. “The abdomen is always ripped open.. … Everything will just get ripped up, you know. Whenever we have a smooth portion of liver, we think that’s good, because most of the time, just the instruments they go in to pull and it’s just whatever presents first.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee released a report in light of the videos outlining its finding that ABR, StemExpress and Novogenics Laboratories purchased the bodily organs of aborted babies from California Planned Parenthood locations, and then resold them at substantially higher prices.
“[I]n June of 2014, an ABR technician obtained a 20-week-old fetus at a Planned Parenthood clinic, for which it paid $60,” the committee outlined. “From that one fetus, ABR sold its brain to one customer for $325, both of its eyes for $325 each ($650 total) to a second customer, a portion of its liver for $325 to a third customer, its thymus for $325 and another portion of its liver for $325 to a fourth customer, and its lung for $325 to a fifth customer.”
But Planned Parenthood accused Daleiden of initiating a smear campaign to try to harm its organization and soon sued CMP over the matter, alleging fraud, trespass, breach of conduct, and eavesdropping as part of a conspiracy under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
“The defendants’ plan here was not to find crimes, and it was not about journalism. It was about using any means, including illegal means, to destroy Planned Parenthood,” Planned Parenthood attorney Rhonda Trotter asserted during the six-week trial, according to Courthouse News.
Outlets state that U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick III instructed the jury to find Daleiden guilty of trespass.
“I have already determined that these defendants trespassed at each of these locations. Because I determined that these defendants trespassed, the law assumes that Planned Parenthood has been harmed and is entitled to an award of nominal damages such as one dollar for each trespass,” he advised on Thursday.
Orrick also told jurors that they could not take into account any information that Daleiden discovered during his investigation but only what he knew before launching the undercover project.
“The First Amendment is not a defense to the claims in this case for the jury to consider,” Orrick additionally wrote prior to the trial, according to Courthouse News. “Defendants’ argument that they were citizen journalists was admissible as context for the defendants’ case, not as a legal defense.”
Jurors consequently concluded that Daleiden’s actions constituted the malice and fraud elements required in order to award Planned Parenthood punitive damages, settling on a payment of $870K. Another $470K in compensatory damages was granted for “security upgrades” and screening, and CMP estimates the total damages, when RICO is factored, to be nearly $2.3 million.
Planned Parenthood has expressed satisfaction with the ruling, with attorney Trotter remarking in a statement, “The jury has spoken loud and clear. Those who violate the law in an effort to limit access to reproductive rights and health care will be held accountable.”
However, Daleiden believes the entire lawsuit was simply retaliation for publicly exposing Planned Parenthood’s practices and partnerships, and that Orrick was not just in his judgment. His legal team plans to appeal.
“Justice was not done today in San Francisco. While top Planned Parenthood witnesses spent six weeks testifying under oath that the undercover videos are true and Planned Parenthood sold fetal organs on a quid pro quo basis, a biased judge with close Planned Parenthood ties spent six weeks influencing the jury with pre-determined rulings and suppressing the video evidence, all in order to rubber-stamp Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit attack on the First Amendment,” he said in a statement.
“This lawsuit is payback for David Daleiden exposing Planned Parenthood’s dirty business of buying and selling fetal parts and organs,” also remarked Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society, which is representing Daleiden in court. “Rather than face up to its heinous doings, Planned Parenthood chose to persecute the person who exposed it. I am fully confident that when this case has run its course, justice will prevail, and David will be vindicated.”
The two note that Planned Parenthood admitted during the trial that the video footage accurately represented the conversations and that the organization had been compensated by its business partners for the “specimens.”