Planned Parenthood Awarded $2 Million in Lawsuit Over Secret Videos

Planned Parenthood Awarded $2 Million in Lawsuit Over Secret Videos


An anti-abortion activist and his associates were ordered to pay as much as $2.2 million in damages to Planned Parenthood on Friday, after a federal jury in San Francisco ruled that he had broken federal and state laws when he secretly recorded workers for the organization.

The activist, David R. Daleiden, recorded the videos in 2015 in an attempt to show that Planned Parenthood was illegally selling fetal tissue, a claim that created a political uproar and mobilized conservatives against the organization.

Mr. Daleiden, the leader of a group called the Center for Medical Progress, posed as a biotechnology representative to make the recordings. The jury found that he had trespassed on private property and committed fraud, according to court papers.

Planned Parenthood said in a statement that the jury had ruled in its favor on each of its claims, including a violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

Harmeet Dhillon, one of the lawyers for Mr. Daleiden, said: “We’re disappointed with the jury verdict but this is not the last word on the case. We will be appealing numerous aspects of the verdict and the judge’s ruling.”

She added that “we believe we have excellent grounds for reversal.”

The ruling was a victory for Planned Parenthood, which had been buffeted by the political fallout from the videos, whose release in the summer of 2015 incited widespread outrage.

The videos gave new strength to the conservative drive to defund Planned Parenthood. Missouri called a special legislative session to do so after their release. The organization was forced to apologize for the casual tone that one of its officials had used in a video to discuss a possible transfer of fetal tissue to what she believed was a legitimate medical company. Planned Parenthood said the fees being discussed were to cover costs and were legal.

Abortion opponents claimed that the videos revealed that Planned Parenthood was engaged in the illegal sale of body parts. The organization has denied the charge, which has not been supported in numerous congressional and state investigations prompted by the release of the videos.

Planned Parenthood said in a statement that Mr. Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress had “intentionally waged a multiyear illegal effort to manufacture a malicious campaign.” The organization added that “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.”

Mr. Daleiden’s supporters argued that the case was about freedom of speech. Mr. Daleiden was working, effectively, as an undercover journalist, they said, and should be protected by the First Amendment.

The Center for Medical Progress said on Twitter that the verdict set “a dangerous precedent for citizen journalism and First Amendment civil rights across the country.”

A grand jury in Harris County, Texas, indicted Mr. Daleiden and another Center for Medical Progress employee, Sandra S. Merritt, in January 2016. Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt were charged with making and presenting fake California driver’s licenses, with the intent to defraud, for their April meeting at a Planned Parenthood location in Houston.

To make the videos, Mr. Daleiden and others were accused of setting up a fake company called BioMax Procurement Services, creating fake identities and claiming to be part of a legitimate provider of fetal tissue to researchers.



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