Pro-Life Activist Will Appeal Planned Parenthood Undercover Video Verdict

Pro-life groups rip decision as politically biased

(Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

The pro-life activist who exposed Planned Parenthood's organ harvesting operations is planning to appeal a jury's verdict in favor of the abortion giant.

On Friday, a California jury ruled that Center for Medical Progress head David Daleiden must pay $2.2 million to Planned Parenthood after he published a series of undercover videos in which employees candidly discussed harvesting and selling body parts from aborted babies. Daleiden's attorneys said they are already planning an appeal, saying the lawsuit threatens the First Amendment.

"This case puts the constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech on trial. It tests the sacred tenet of freedom of the press," Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society said in a press release. "Planned Parenthood decided that it was above the law. Planned Parenthood was wrong, and I am confident that we will win on appeal."

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The jury found that Daleiden, an undercover journalist, is required to pay the damages to compensate for Planned Parenthood's security costs and because the undercover journalism caused substantial harm to the organization.

Daleiden has argued that his undercover techniques were no different than those employed by traditional journalism organizations, pointing to a 2000 ABC News report in which 20/20 reporters posed as organ buyers.

Pro-life groups criticized the verdict, as well as federal judge William Orrick's handling of the trial. Daleiden's attorneys had called on the Obama appointee to recuse himself from the case, citing his involvement with a charity that works directly with Planned Parenthood. Orrick instructed the jury before deliberations that Daleiden illegally trespassed during the course of his investigation, according to the Daily Wire.

"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," Orrick told the jury.

Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress criticized the verdict as "a dangerous precedent for citizen journalism and First Amendment civil rights across the country."

Daleiden faces both civil and criminal litigation. He is charged with recording the Planned Parenthood employees under false pretenses. The criminal case, which was launched by then-California attorney general Kamala Harris, is ongoing.

Planned Parenthood praised the verdict and criticized Daleiden for waging a "malicious campaign" against the abortion provider.

"David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress intentionally waged a multi-year illegal effort to manufacture a malicious campaign against Planned Parenthood," the organization said in a release. "The jury recognized today that those behind the campaign broke the law in order to advance their goals of banning safe, legal abortion in this country, and to prevent Planned Parenthood from serving the patients who depend on us."

The National Abortion Federation also praised the decision in a statement. The group described the pro-life activists as extremists and called on elected officials to "treat them like the criminals that they are."

Lila Rose, president and founder of Live Action, a pro-life group, praised the decision to appeal the verdict.

"David Daleiden and those who helped to expose Planned Parenthood’s gruesome baby body parts trafficking scheme should immediately appeal today’s guilty verdict, which surely belongs instead to the $1.5 billion dollar abortion corporation that kills over 900 preborn children every day," she said in a statement.