Pro-life activists Sandra Merritt and David Daleiden exposed the sordid underbelly of fetal tissue trade practices in 2015. Their undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood executives talking about selling the body parts of dead babies led to serious curbs on such transactions in the United States. Now Merritt and Daleiden are defending themselves from criminal charges in a California courtroom.
During a two-week hearing, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is attempting to prove to San Francisco Superior Court Judge Christopher Hite he has enough evidence to try the activists from the Center for Medical Progress on 15 felony counts each for recording abortionists and others involved in the buying and selling of fetal tissue without their consent.
“It’s an assault on First Amendment civil rights,” Daleiden told Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Friday. “It’s using the law enforcement powers of Kamala Harris to punish dissenting thought, and to punish people who have a policy disagreement.” Harris, now a U.S. senator and presidential candidate seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination in 2020, filed the charges against Daleiden and Merritt while serving as California’s attorney general. She obtained a warrant and sent police to Daleiden’s home to seize the videos from his investigation.
“If everything is equal, and it’s not abortion or San Francisco, this case would have never been filed, let alone go to a full trial,” said Mat Staver, chairman of pro-life legal group Liberty Counsel, which represents Merritt. “In a criminal case, you have to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. … You couldn’t even prove guilt here by a preponderance of evidence.”
Witnesses from Planned Parenthood said Daleiden and Merritt broke confidentiality agreements and violated California laws when they recorded conversations at the National Abortion Federation (NAF) trade shows in 2014 and 2015.
But Staver said California’s two-party consent law on recorded conversations has an important loophole: If the person recorded is in a public place and “can reasonably expect that the communication may be overheard or recorded,” the law does not apply.
At least three Planned Parenthood abortionists admitted last week in court they were in public places during the recordings and made no attempt to lower their voices when strangers passed by within earshot. Two said they trusted in the confidentiality agreement of the NAF conference and simply weren’t worried.
One witness, an abortionist who discussed the sale of baby parts with Merritt and Daleiden over lunch at a public restaurant, also admitted in court on Thursday that the video clips of her appeared unedited. Court documents refer to her as “Doe 9.” Her statement contradicts earlier sworn testimony that the video of her was edited to make her seem to say things she didn’t.
“Doe 9, a Planned Parenthood doctor, is a liar and was proven to be so on the stand this week,” Staver said. “Now that the state is putting on its best witnesses, and they are falling apart, it really shows the political motivation.”
Merritt and Daleiden must also go through a civil trial in October, in which Planned Parenthood will seek financial damages as a result of the videos. Daleiden is fighting a third, separate case over the release of his remaining video footage. —S.G.