(May 6)

A liberal federal judge barely salvaged First Amendment rights in a complicated decision involving secret videotapes, alleged racketeering, and the involvement of Planned Parenthood officials in the trade of body parts secured through abortions.

Many in the pro-life movement are understandably upset that District Judge William Orrick III of California assessed more than $1.5 million in damage payments against several pro-life activists who did an undercover video sting operation against Planned Parenthood. Orrick issued his decision on April 29, but the news received less coverage than one might have expected.

Closer examination, however, indicates Orrick’s decision was carefully calibrated. The actual monetary damages were ordered pursuant to jury verdicts finding the videographers guilty of violating the laws of multiple states and federal racketeering laws. For example, the videographers were found guilty of fraud for forging driver’s licenses and falsely signing attestations that they specifically would not videotape a specific conference of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s most active abortion provider….

Orrick essentially took the middle ground. While even a casual reader of the decision can easily detect real hostility from Orrick toward the pro-life cause, he actually slapped down Planned Parenthood on a considerable number of fronts….

Again and again, Orrick declared Planned Parenthood’s legal citations in support of a broader injunction to be “inapposite” (not entirely relevant) and “overly expansive.” He said he was taking care to protect First Amendment protections (whether he protected them enough is open to question), and he made clear his order would not apply to certain circumstances in states that do not require that all parties consent to a recording….

[Meanwhile, this case] cannot erase the opprobrium that should rain down on Planned Parenthood officials caught admitting on video that they perform partial-birth abortions to procure body parts for sale, even altering the way they conduct the procedure (at possible risk to the mother) to salvage those organs…..

[The rest of this column is at this link.]

 

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