David R. Daleiden, 28, and Sandra S. Merritt, 63, the anti-abortion activists behind the infamous Planned Parenthood video were charged earlier this month in San Francisco Superior Court for 14 felony counts of eavesdropping and secretly recording conversations, and one additional count of felony conspiracy (amounting to 15 felony counts total). California Attorney Gen. Xavier Becerra unveiled a 15-count felony complaint against the activists, alleging that they video-recorded 14 people without their consent at meetings with women’s healthcare providers in Los Angeles, Pasadena, San Francisco and El Dorado. The complaint can be found here.
Back in 2015, the Orange County-based Center for American released a video featuring high-ranking Planned Parenthood employees haggling over prices for fetal specimens as well as describing altering abortion procedures to obtain more intact fetal body parts. That video has largely also been debunked as fake.
In a related development, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also held the same week, that the Planned Parenthood video showed no evidence of criminal activity, and upheld the preliminary injunction barring Daleiden and his fake company from further dissemination of the material. The 9th Circuit rejected the Defendant’s claim that their activity was protected by the First Amendment. Investigations have also cleared Planned Parenthood of criminal charges, but threats and violence against the healthcare provider have still continued.
It is reported that the state of California has the evidence it needs to win the convictions against these anti-abortion activists. California has stronger privacy protections than most states. In fact, the right to privacy is even mentioned in the state’s constitution:
” All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.” See California Constitution, Article 1, Section 1.
Prosecutions involving hidden recordings tend to be fact specific. Using a hidden recording device almost already admits the other person assumed the conversation was private and therefore is a violation of Cal. Penal Code § 632, which is at the heart of the California Attorney General’s complaint.
Even citizen journalists have to comply with criminal statutes. The Penal Code only has some narrow exceptions for exposing certain crimes, such as bribery and extortion, and to protect public safety. Continue reading