What ever the Los Angeles Times’ position on abortion may be, the newspaper editorial board believes in freedom of the press for the citizen journalists whose undercover videos exposed Planned Parenthood and other groups that distribute aborted babies’ body parts.
On Thursday, the Times editorial board published a piece criticizing California Attorney General Xavier Becerra for pursuing felony charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt of the Center for Medical Progress.
The LA Times called the charges a “disturbing overreach” on the attorney general’s part.
Becerra, a Democrat who has received campaign donations from Planned Parenthood, filed 15 felony charges against Daleiden and Merritt on Tuesday. California law requires that both parties consent to be recorded. Becerra alleges that Daleiden and Merritt broke the law by undercover filming their conversations with abortionists and others.
The Center for Medical Progress said the charges are “bogus,” and one of California’s largest news outlets agrees.
The LA Times editorial board clearly is no fan of the Center for Medical Progress’s work, criticizing the undercover videos as “heavily edited” and Daleiden’s methods as “decidedly not those employed by respectable reporters.”
But the editors said the attorney general should not threaten citizen journalists like Daleiden and Merritt with prison.
The editorial board wrote:
It’s disturbingly aggressive for Becerra to apply this criminal statute to people who were trying to influence a contested issue of public policy, regardless of how sound or popular that policy may be. Planned Parenthood and biomedical company StemExpress, which was also featured in the videos, have another remedy for the harm that was done to them: They can sue Daleiden and Merritt for damages. The state doesn’t need to threaten the pair with prison time.
The editorial board argued that Daleiden’s and Merritt’s intent was the same as any other undercover journalist – “to change people’s views on important and controversial issues,” in this case, on abortion and fetal tissue research.
The newspaper board continued:
In similar cases, we have denounced moves to criminalize such behavior, especially in the case of animal welfare investigators who have gone undercover at slaughterhouses and other agricultural businesses to secretly record horrific and illegal abuses of animals. That work, too, is aimed at revealing wrongdoing and changing public policy.
California media outlets may be feeling a bit less cordial toward Planned Parenthood after it lobbied last year to restrict the freedom of the press in the state.
The new state law, heavily backed by Planned Parenthood, prohibits journalists and whistle blowers from conducting undercover investigations of health care facilities, including abortion centers.
It came about in direct response to the Center for Medical Progress investigation. The undercover videos did a lot of damage to Planned Parenthood when they revealed the abortion giant’s baby body parts operation. Through the California law, Planned Parenthood is trying to stop anyone from trying to expose its horrendous practices ever again.
Some of the abortion group’s usual allies spoke out against the law. The ACLU, the Los Angeles Times editorial board and other news outlets blasted the legislation as an unconstitutional violation of the freedom of the press.
A state Senate analysis noted that California could face lawsuits challenging the law as an unconstitutional, Breitbart reported last fall.
Daleiden and Merritt filmed their videos before the law was even considered. Their felony charges involve an older state law that prohibits recording confidential conversations without the person’s consent.
Texas prosecutors filed similar charges against Daleiden and Merritt last year, but the charges later were dismissed.
“The public knows the real criminals are Planned Parenthood and their business partners,” Daleiden’s group said in a statement earlier this week. “We look forward to showing the entire world what is on our yet-unreleased videotapes of Planned Parenthood’s criminal baby body parts enterprise, in vindication of the First Amendment rights of all.”