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Pro-life filmmakers ask SCOTUS to lift gag order blocking them from publishing undercover footage

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The Center for Medical Progress petitioned the Supreme Court on Thursday appealing a gag order blocking the publication of its undercover footage, the pro-life group said.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick has blocked the Center for Medical Progress from releasing footage its filmmakers took of discussions that took place at the National Abortion Federation’s 2014 and 2015 annual conferences. NAF, a trade organization for abortion providers, argued that the publication of the footage would endanger its members.

In a petition for a writ of certiorari the Center for Medical Progress filed Thursday at the United States Supreme Court, the group argued that its filmmakers acted as “undercover journalists.” The Center argued that the gag order is unconstitutional, and it has a First Amendment right to publish its footage. It also argued that courts have not upheld comparable orders.

“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,” the petition states.

In a statement, David Daleiden, the founder of the Center for Medical Progress, said that “Judge Orrick’s gag order, issued at the behest of Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation, is an unprecedented attack on the First Amendment by a clearly biased federal judge.”

“Judge Orrick even wants to press his gag order in the California attorney general’s bogus criminal case against me — though he, NAF, and Planned Parenthood insist the gag order only applies to my defense, and not to the attorney general’s bogus prosecution,” Daleiden said.

Alexandra Snyder, executive director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, one of the organizations representing the Center for Medical Progress, said in a statement, “The abortion industry went after David Daleiden for one reason — to protect the reputation it carefully cultivated in four decades of public deception.”

“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,” Snyder said.

Earlier this year, when attorneys representing the Center for Medical Progress published a video that it described as a preview of the footage that is under the injunction, Orrick ordered it removed from YouTube. The video depicted abortion providers and Planned Parenthood executives describing abortion procedures as “violence” and “killing.”

The Center for Medical Progress has previously argued that Orrick has a “longstanding relationship” as an emeritus board member of an organization connected to a Planned Parenthood affiliate. The pro-life group said a motion to disqualify Orrick from the case is still pending.

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