Ben Boychuk

Liberals will rue Becerra’s prosecution of Planned Parenthood video producers

David Robert Daleiden leaves a courtroom after a hearing in Houston last year. California prosecutors say two anti-abortion activists who made undercover videos of themselves trying to buy fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood have been charged with 15 felony counts of invasion of privacy.
David Robert Daleiden leaves a courtroom after a hearing in Houston last year. California prosecutors say two anti-abortion activists who made undercover videos of themselves trying to buy fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood have been charged with 15 felony counts of invasion of privacy. Associated Press

Where are the liberals?

In California, I’m led to believe they’re everywhere. I’m not so sure.

I hear people lamenting the sad state of Trump’s America over their macchiatos and poke bowls. I see people wearing pink knit caps marching against Trump on behalf of women everywhere (except for the college-educated white women who voted for him – and pro-lifers). I’m told these so-called liberals are giving their money to the American Civil Liberties Union to fight Trump’s dangerous agenda.

But when the state’s attorney general mounts an assault on the First Amendment, where are these liberals? Either they’re silent, or they’re applauding.

I heard liberals say Donald Trump’s victory would endanger our sacred rights. I guess they were right.

Perhaps because California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s attack on freedom of the press is focused on a despised minority: a pair of pro-life activists who sought to expose and undermine a holy liberal institution, Planned Parenthood.

Becerra late last month filed 15 felony counts against Center for Medical Progress founder David Daleiden and his collaborator (or, in the parlance of the current indictment, co-conspirator) Sandra Merritt for making secret recordings of meetings with National Abortion Federation and Planned Parenthood executives in Los Angeles, San Francisco and elsewhere around the state.

The Center for Medical Progress in 2015 released a series of videos documenting how Planned Parenthood peddles in aborted baby parts. The abortion-provider prefers euphemisms such as “fetal-tissue donation” or “products of conception,” but the fact is a lot of money changes hands. They sell baby parts.

In one video, an abortion doctor explained to Daleiden and his compatriot how they’ve “been very good at getting heart, lung, liver,” thanks to deft use of ultrasound. In another, an executive says pricing a baby’s organs and limbs is “just matter of line items.”

Daleiden and Merritt’s work embarrassed Planned Parenthood and some of its clients, but did not destroy the organization founded by eugenicist Margaret Sanger. Having only wounded the beast, the beast bit back.

Daleiden and Merritt’s methods were unconventional, to say the least. They used fake names and established a phony front business to set up meetings in public places with Planned Parenthood officials, which were then surreptitiously recorded. “Real” journalists disapprove of that sort of thing.

Then again, Daleiden and Merritt aren’t “real” journalists; they’re activists – as if those two lines of work never intersect. (I.F. Stone, call your office.) Activist-journalists in the recent past have exposed animal cruelty at industrial farms and systematic abuse of patients at elder care facilities.

The Center for Medical Progress advocates ending abortion in general and the sale of baby parts to biotech companies in particular. Those are big-time public policy questions.

Daleiden and Merritt have used unconventional journalistic means toward political ends. They’ve exercised their First Amendment rights in an attempt to move public opinion toward their point of view.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has had something to say about such contact in the past. In 2002, the court ruled that ABC News did not violate the privacy of an executive who was recorded secretly during a tour of a lab that performed pap smear tests. The court ruled that the exec willingly invited these “strangers” to the lab and therefore “did not have an objectively reasonable expectation of solitude or seclusion.”

If that’s true in a private facility, how is it not true in a public place, like a restaurant or a convention center, where Daleiden and Merritt did most of their work?

So where are the liberals? The ACLU – a group that famously defended the right of Nazis to march through the predominantly Jewish town of Skokie, Ill. – has had nothing to say about Becerra’s prosecutorial zeal. How could it? The fair-weather civil libertarians spent 18 months raising money by denouncing Daleiden and his group as “anti-abortion extremists.”

The anti-abortion position is unpopular in California. Planned Parenthood is very rich and very powerful. Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress are not. In the past, the liberal position was clear: protect the weak against the strong. But abortion is a secular sacrament, and the pro-life cause is a heresy.

This isn’t a prosecution. It’s persecution – and liberals should be ashamed.

Ben Boychuk is managing editor of American Greatness (www.amgreatness.com). He can be contacted at ben@amgreatness.com or on Twitter @benboychuk.

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