According to the Life Legal Defense Foundation, they filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court yesterday asking for a review of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in National Abortion Federation v. Center for Medical Progress. In this case, the National Abortion Federation (NAF) filed a lawsuit against David Daleiden and his Center for Medical Progress (CMP) just weeks after Daleiden released videos showing Planned Parenthood directors negotiating the sale of baby body parts for profit. The NAF sought a gag order prohibiting CMP from releasing additional footage recorded at its annual conferences, fearing further public scrutiny of the unethical and illegal business practices of its members.
Federal judge William Orrick, who previously served on the board of an organization that “partnered” with Planned Parenthood, issued the order. Orrick decided that Daleiden forfeited his First Amendment speech rights when he signed a non-disclosure agreement that the NAF requires of all conference attendees. This agreement was imposed to prevent the kind of public relations disaster that occurred after late-term abortionist Martin Haskell unveiled a new technique of partial birth abortion at a NAF meeting in 1992.
Life Legal appealed Orrick’s decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which ultimately upheld the gag order even though they did not fully review the case, which is required when First Amendment freedoms are at stake.
Katie Short, vice president of Legal Affairs at Life Legal, 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.
Even Judge Orrick acknowledged that the public “has an interest in accessing the NAF materials.”
In spite of this, both Orrick and the Ninth Circuit “elected to protect the interests of the abortion industry over the interests of taxpayers who fund Planned Parenthood to the tune of $550 million annually,” Life Legal reports.
As the petition states, “At issue in this appeal is a gag order, a preliminary injunction imposed specifically for the purpose of hiding information from the public, precisely because the information is of such significant public interest and concern—the procurement and sale of aborted fetal body parts.”
Daleiden’s opponents could be standing on shaky legal ground because the Supreme Court has already ruled that the type of gag order issued by Orrick poses an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech and called these prior restraints “the most serious and least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights.”
They further held that the damage of gag orders is 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, the petition 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.”
“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. “Our hope is that the Supreme Court will agree that First Amendment freedoms must not be extinguished to remove from public scrutiny issues of fundamental social and political importance.”
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