SAN FRANCISCO — David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), along with his co-worker Sandra Merritt, pleaded not guilty on Friday to criminal counts surrounding an undercover investigation they conducted into Planned Parenthood and its business partners over the extraction, transferal and sale of the body parts of aborted babies. Daleiden and Merritt potentially face up to 10 years behind bars if convicted, but their defense states that the two did “an incredible public service” and should not be punished.
“David is being charged as a criminal for using the same investigative reporting techniques regularly exercised by other journalists,” Daleiden defense attorney Peter Breen, senior counsel at the Illinois-based Thomas More Society, said in a statement.
“These industry practices are often lauded and rewarded, but here in California, Mr. Daleiden is being charged as a criminal and threatened with years in prison for shining his investigative light on the dark secrets of the abortion industry.”
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra charged Daleiden and Merritt in December with:
eight counts of eavesdropping and recording “confidential communication” by secretly taping their discussions,
one count of creating a “deceptive identification document” used for “fraudulent purposes” by registering under a fake business name to conduct their undercover investigation,
and one count of conspiracy to record confidential information by posing as BioMax employees to gain access to abortion-related exhibitions and speak with Planned Parenthood representatives and its business partners.
Daleiden and Merritt pleaded not guilty to nine of the ten counts on Friday, and a demurer was filed for the tenth count, which is similar to requesting a dismissal. Breen notes that the recordings were all made in public restaurants and at public events, and so there was no expectation of privacy in the discussions.
A preliminary hearing was held in September before Judge Christopher Hite, during which time a number of abortionists took the stand to discuss their practices, as well as a fetal remains broker who acknowledged that the body parts of aborted babies were being sold. The sale of “fetal tissue” for profit is illegal under federal law.
Breen is already filing an appeal of the decision to allow the criminal counts against Daleiden and Merritt to move forward in the first place as he believes Hite “didn’t at all address our critical argument that they had clear evidence that violent felonies were occurring inside of Planned Parenthood and otherwise.”
“David and Susan face 10 years — a decade — in San Quentin penitentiary if those felony counts were to be upheld,” he lamented in a video update posted online. “Outrageous. The first time and the only time undercover journalists have been charged with … the illegal taping law [in California].”
As previously reported, Daleiden and 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.”
As previously reported, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has outlined publicly that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had purchased the body parts of aborted babies from ABR for intramural projects to test drug efficacy, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) similarly purchased organs — specifically livers and thymuses — in seeking a cure for HIV.
Cost per each liver and thymus was $680, but increased in May 2018 to $750. See the documentation here as obtained by Judicial Watch following a lawsuit against HHS.
The government has also issued grants for extramural projects at universities — such as the University of San Francisco — that use the remains of unborn children in testing via “humanized mice.”
“[M]ost of the time, it is not intact,” Parrin Larton of ABR stated in one of the videos recorded by Daleiden. “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.”
In another video, Planned Parenthood Medical Director Deborah Nucatola nonchalantly munches on salad and sips wine as she talks about adjusting the child so as not to crush certain organs due to the demand for the body part.
“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 explained. “[Y]ou’re just kind of cognizant where you put your graspers. You try to intentionally go above and below the thorax, so that — you know.”
“We’ve been very good at getting the 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.’”
Another video showed Mary Gatter, the president of Planned Parenthood’s Medical Directors Council, haggling with undercover investigators about the compensation for the fetal organs, laughing, “I want a Lamborghini.” Other footage showed an actual aborted baby being dissected in a dish, with an assistant declaring, “Another boy!” and one video showed an abortionist laughing about how harvesting an intact baby head would be “something to strive for.”
Planned Parenthood and ABR, as well as other business partners, are reportedly under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice following a referral from Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
“[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 in a report. “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.”
In addition to making over $2,200 from just one baby, ABR also allegedly charged shipping and disease screening fees, making over $6,000 from a single child. A technician from ABR would go to Planned Parenthood and personally collect the aborted baby body parts on site the day of the procedures, the committee found.
Planned Parenthood had claimed following the release of Daleiden’s videos, which were first posted online in 2015, that the footage had been deceptively edited, but Daleiden had also publicly released the hours-long recordings in their entirety in addition to his concise video highlights. All the videos may be viewed in their entirety on the Center for Medical Progress YouTube page.
The federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals also noted in January 2019 in a case surrounding Texas’ decision to terminate its Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood that the state Office of the Inspector General (OIG) “submitted a report from a forensic firm concluding that the video was authentic and not deceptively edited. And the plaintiffs (Planned Parenthood) did not identify any particular omission or addition in the video footage.”
“[T]here is no question that the OIG here made factual findings after viewing the videos and related evidence,” outlined Judge Edith Jones, nominated to the bench by then-President Ronald Reagan.
“The OIG further concluded, based on the videos, that the provider plaintiffs at a minimum violated federal standards regarding fetal tissue research and standards of medical ethics by allowing doctors to alter abortion procedures to retrieve tissue for research purposes or allowing the researchers themselves to perform the procedures,” she wrote.
“What Sandra and I both did is no different from what local news sources and local news outlets do every single day here in the state of California when they go undercover and publish undercover hidden camera news stories,” Daleiden, a Roman Catholic who appears to be favorable toward homosexuals, said of his investigation in 2017.
“The only difference is that we went after and we recorded and we exposed the sacred cows of the California political establishment: Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation and their allies and proxies in the abortion industry — the political backers of the organs of power in the state of California,” he stated.
In addition to the criminal charges, Daliden and Merritt are facing several civil lawsuits. In November, a jury awarded Planned Parenthood over $2 million after finding that Daleiden and CMP caused “substantial harm” to the organization through the expose’ videos.
“Planned Parenthood wants a permanent injunction against David Daleiden from ever going undercover against Planned Parenthood — for the rest of his life,” Breen explained.
The National Abortion Federation (NAF) has also obtained an injunction preventing Daleiden from releasing any more videos he recorded undercover at the organization’s conferences. One video Daleiden released in defiance of the injunction featured clips of various Planned Parenthood officials and other abortion advocates making nonchalant statements about the abortion process, including that the baby’s eyeballs fell into their lap or that they had to tear off a leg to avoid technically performing a partial-birth abortion.
“Really high stakes here, both for the public, for the pro-life movement [and] just for the future of the country,” Breen said.