SAN FRANCISCO (ChurchMilitant.com) - A federal judge has ruled in favor of pro-life investigative reporting involving damning footage of Planned Parenthood.
Judge William Orrick III, a judge on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, issued a tentative ruling Wednesday that dismissed the majority of Planned Parenthood's lawsuit against David Daleiden, head of Center for Medical Progress (CMP). Back in 2015, Daleiden and CMP released a series of undercover investigative videos about the abortion giant's traffic in aborted babies' body parts, which led to a number of states passing measures to defund the abortion giant as well as two separate federal investigations into Planned Parenthood's business practices.
Planned Parenthood sued Daleiden and CMP for more than $20 million owing to the videos. But Orrick has now significantly downsized the lawsuit, noting he was "inclined to exclude from the case all damages that stem from third parties' reactions to the release of the video recordings as impermissible damages barred by the First Amendment absent a defamation claim."
Thus, the court ruled that Planned Parenthood was wrong to blame CMP for threats made by third parties apparently reacting to the organization's videos.
Orrick reduced the suit to less than $100,000, leaving in place "damages for investigating intrusions" and "improvements to access-security measures for conferences and facilities," among other things.
The case with the reduced lawsuit amount is scheduled to go to trial beginning on Sept. 30.
The tentative decision is being viewed as a big win for undercover investigative journalism, as well as welcome news for the pro-life movement.
In a statement Thursday, CMP said that "the ruling affirms that citizen journalists exercising their First Amendment rights to speak and publish cannot be held liable for any bad actions taken by others in the free marketplace of ideas, absent a clear showing of defamation or intent to incite imminent lawless action."
"Planned Parenthood could provide no evidence or testimony in the case to back up either accusation, and so a lawsuit that was once an avalanche of charges has been reduced to essentially a trespassing dispute," it added.
CMP noted that Orrick "instructed the parties to treat [the ruling] as if it were substantially final."
Daleiden also added, "Now that all the facts, evidence, and testimony are in, even Planned Parenthood's favorite judge refuses to buy into the abortion giant's fake news and lies about the honest motives and protected speech of pro-life citizen journalists."
"Planned Parenthood is a government-sponsored crime syndicate selling baby body parts like widgets on an assembly line," Daleiden said, "and should only appear in federal court as a criminal defendant."
The ruling comes the same week as news broke that Planned Parenthood will likely lose as much as $60 million in federal funding by refusing to comply with rules laid out by the Trump administration.
Orrick's ruling has come as a suprise to some, given how the Obama-appointed judge has ties to Planned Parenthood — a fact that caused Daleiden to ask the judge to recuse himself from the case in December 2017.
A LifeNews piece Thursday noted, "Judge Orrick previously faced scrutiny presiding over the case because of his history founding, promoting and donating to a Planned Parenthood clinic in San Francisco run by Plaintiff Planned Parenthood Northern California. That he would rule so strongly against Planned Parenthood speaks volumes."
CMP's undercover videos about the sales of baby body parts has helped sway public opinion against Planned Parenthood. After the videos were aired, pro-lifers and others began applying pressure to lawmakers to remove government funding from the abortion giant.
As of today, numerous states have removed Planned Parenthood funding from their budgets while passing some of the strongest pro-life laws to date. Most recently, lawmakers in the state of Ohio are working to eliminate state funding for Planned Parenthood.