Issues

Center for Medical Progress Asks Supreme Court to Lift Gag Order

Videographer says judge's injunction barring release of footage violates press freedom

David Daleiden / Getty Images

The Center for Medical Progress has appealed to the Supreme Court to lift a gag order barring it from releasing additional Planned Parenthood videos.

CMP founder David Daleiden and his attorneys filed a writ to the high court on Thursday asking it to review the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision to preserve a gag order against publishing additional undercover footage because they violated a non-disclosure agreement he signed to attend two National Abortion Federation conventions.

Daleiden argued that his videos, taken at lunches and the convention where he posed as a fetal tissue procurer, followed "in the tradition of countless undercover journalists." The petition contends that the preliminary injunction is an "unconstitutional [act of] prior restraint" that infringes on his First Amendment rights as a journalist.

"The nondisclosure provisions could not reasonably be construed to extend to the informal conversations Daleiden had with other conference attendees and that a preliminary injunction would violate the First Amendment’s prohibition on prior restraints," the petition says. "The preliminary injunction in this case serves precisely the impermissible goal of protecting institutional forces against factual revelations that threaten their political and public standing."

In granting the injunction, the district court also held that CMP was responsible for several vandalized Planned Parenthood clinics, as well as the Colorado Planned Parenthood shooter, who was later found to be mentally incompetent to stand trial. CMP attorneys contend that the Supreme Court rejected similar arguments when it upheld the New York Times‘ right to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971. CMP argues that the materials in the video are of significant "public interest" that merit dissemination protected by the Freedom of the Press.

"This Court has never approved suppressing the publication of potentially inflammatory material to avert the possibility of violence by an insane criminal—or even by sane fanatics," the petition says. "At issue in this appeal is a gag order, a preliminary injunction imposed specifically for the purpose of hiding information from the public, precisely because the information is of such significant public interest and concern—the procurement and sale of aborted fetal body parts."

Daleiden has faced legal turmoil following the release of the videos. He faces 15 felony counts connected to his recordings, as well as his use of fake identification after being investigated and indicted by the California attorney general's office led by two Democrats who have received $47,000 from pro-abortion groups. A California judge held Daleiden in contempt of court after he published an additional video in May; the video was later removed from YouTube and other video sharing sites.

Daleiden said that the gag order calls into question the objectivity of U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick, who is presiding over his case. He said that the injunction could have repercussions for future whistleblowers and journalists.

"Judge Orrick even wants to press his gag order in the California Attorney General’s bogus criminal case against me," he said in a statement. "Judge Orrick’s gag order, issued at the behest of Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation, is an unprecedented attack on the First Amendment by a clearly biased federal judge."

Planned Parenthood did not respond to request for comment.