California Wants To Imprison Pro-Lifers For Committing Journalism

California Wants To Imprison Pro-Lifers For Committing Journalism

California says undercover journalists who recorded conversations at conferences and in restaurants violated laws against eavesdropping.

Two years ago, the Center for Medical Progress began releasing undercover videos showing high-level Planned Parenthood officials openly talking about harvesting body parts from aborted babies and selling them to middle men.

The videos, which shocked millions, led Planned Parenthood to stop taking money for aborted baby parts, and launched a congressional investigation into the general practice of selling aborted baby parts. That committee’s hearings showed the market for aborted baby parts is significant, growing, and operating in violation of federal law, according to expert testimony. A few months ago, two Yorba Linda medical companies that obtained fetal parts from Planned Parenthood were charged by an Orange County, California, district attorney with illegally profiting off the sale of fetal tissue donated by abortion providers.

Yesterday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced 15 charges against the pro-life journalists for recording their conversations with those involved in the fetal organ trade. Becerra left his post as a Democratic member of Congress to replace Kamala Harris as attorney general when she was elected to the U.S. Senate. A longtime supporter of Planned Parenthood, Harris began the investigation into the pro-life journalists, rather than those involved in the fetal organ trade, in late 2015.

Harris is a recipient of Planned Parenthood funds and was found to have secretly worked with Planned Parenthood to draft legislation that would imprison journalists who record conversations with abortionists or health care providers. During her investigation of the pro-life journalists, her office seized some of the videos that have yet to have been released. At the time, her campaign website included a petition to protect and defend Planned Parenthood.

While the recorded conversations took place in public places such as restaurants and at an abortion business conference, the indictment argues that conversations at these restaurants and conferences were viewed by the recorded party as having taken place in private.

“The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society,” Becerra said in his statement announcing the charges. “We will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations.”

This claim of confidentiality would contradict what Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards herself said about the conversation recorded in the first video released by Center for Medical Progress. That first video featured top Planned Parenthood executive Deborah Nucatola telling the undercover journalists, “We’ve been very good at getting 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.”

Here’s a quick guide to the first 10 undercover videos that were released by the Center for Medical Progress. Of this conversation, Richards said she told Nucatola it was unwise to discuss such things in a “non-confidential setting.” It remains to be seen whether California can make the case that conversations held in public locations such as restaurants are technically not public.

The California penal code section that Becerra claims was violated calls for a prison sentence of a year for a single charge of recording a confidential conversation without the consent of both parties.

The indictment of Daleiden and fellow journalist Sandra Merritt is the latest attempt to punish the undercover journalists for the means by which they uncovered the fetal organ harvesting trade that abortionists engage in. In January 2016, Houston district attorney Devon Anderson got a grand jury to indict Daleiden and Merritt on charges of buying fetal organs and using fake IDs as part of their undercover journalism.

While those indictments were celebrated and received widespread media coverage, both charges were dropped by late July. The dropping of the charges resulted in much less interest from the media. The Houston D.A.’s office admitted to working with Planned Parenthood to refocus the investigation and to release information. The failed political prosecution of the journalists was just one of the reasons Anderson was defeated in her re-election bid in 2016. Her successor dismissed all of the attorneys in the office, including the one who was caught colluding with Planned Parenthood.

Daleiden referenced that failed indictment in his tweet responding to the latest charges:

In August, Planned Parenthood sued the University of Washington to keep it from revealing information about its participation in the purchase and sale of body parts from aborted babies. Recently, one of the fetal organ traders who had sued the Center for Medical Progress backed away from the lawsuit. The congressional investigations sparked by the undercover videos led to referrals for criminal prosecution of Planned Parenthood’s legal violations from committees in both the House and Senate.

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a senior editor at The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter at @mzhemingway
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