Life Legal Defense Foundation today filed a petition for writ of certiorari seeking review of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in National Abortion Federation v. Center for Medical Progress.
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. 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. In doing so, he held that Daleiden contracted away his First Amendment speech 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 at stake.
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.
Even Judge Orrick acknowledged that the public “has an interest in accessing the NAF materials.” Yet he—and the Ninth Circuit in its affirmation of Orrick’s ruling—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.
The Supreme Court has 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, 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.”