The Supreme Court is convening today to consider whether to review Daleiden v. National Abortion Federation, involving David Daleiden’s right to publish videos exposing the abortion industry’s role in the sale of baby body parts.
The National Abortion Federation (NAF) sued Daleiden shortly after the first video was released, seeking a gag order prohibiting Daleiden and his Center for Medical Progress (CMP) from releasing additional footage recorded at its annual conferences.
Federal judge William Orrick, who previously served on the board of an organization that partnered with a Planned Parenthood affiliate, granted the order. Orrick held that Daleiden contracted away his First Amendment rights when he signed the non-disclosure agreement NAF requires of all conference attendees, to avert public relations disasters like that which followed late-term abortionist Martin Haskell’s unveiling of the new technique of partial birth abortion at a NAF meeting in the 1990’s.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the order without fully reviewing the case, as is required when First Amendment freedoms are threatened. Life Legal subsequently filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Ninth Circuit’s ruling.
Life Legal’s Vice President of Legal Affairs, Katie Short, notes that no federal appeals court has ever upheld a gag order that was based on the alleged agreement of the parties to hide information that is of significant public interest and concern.
Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, receives over $550 million in taxpayer funding annually.
The Supreme Court has historically held the type of gag order issued by Judge Orrick to be unconstitutional prior restraints on speech, holding that prior restraints are “the most serious and least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights.” The Court has further held that the damage of gag orders “can be particularly great when the prior restraint falls upon the communication of news and commentary on current events,” which is exactly what Daleiden’s videos are.
Quoting other Supreme Court authority, Life Legal notes that the “dominant purpose of the First Amendment was to prohibit the widespread practice of governmental suppression … of material that is embarrassing to the powers that be.”
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“The abortion industry went after David Daleiden for one reason—to protect the reputation it carefully cultivated in four decades of public deception,” said Life Legal Executive Director Alexandra Snyder. “The Ninth Circuit’s ruling effectively extinguishes public scrutiny of issues of fundamental social and political importance. Our hope is that the Supreme Court will agree to review this case in which our First Amendment freedoms are at stake.”