On Sept. 3, 2019, a criminal hearing began over a series of undercover videos taken by David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). The videos were taken of several individuals from 2014 and 2015 surrounding the National Abortion Federation conferences. After the videos were released, this created a flurry of national news about Planned Parenthood illegally trafficking in fetal tissue. Some of the strongest accusations came against the company StemExpress, which acts as a kind of middleman between hospitals and clinics like Planned Parenthood (where “samples” can be collected) and facilities that use fetal tissue for research.
Planned Parenthood subsequently filed suit against Daleiden and Merritt, who have been charged with 15 crimes, including “violating the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO Act) and engaging in wire fraud, mail fraud, invasion of privacy, illegal secret recording, and trespassing.” Daleiden asserted that he and Merritt were acting as undercover journalists trying to expose illegal activity and that their activities should be protected. Additionally, he and his attorneys say that the videos were taken in public locations where there wasn’t an expectation of privacy.
Subsequent to the criminal hearing, the case has moved to a civil trial in which Planned Parenthood is seeking damages against Daleiden and CMP. Jury selection began on Oct. 2. Since proceedings have begun, the judge overseeing the civil trial has repeatedly blocked evidence presented by the defense about Planned Parenthood’s actions involving the sale of fetal tissue. In his opening statements, the judge said that the case, “is not about the truth of whether plaintiffs profited from the sale of fetal tissue or otherwise violated the law in securing tissue for those programs,” and, “Those issues are a matter of dispute between the parties in the world outside this courtroom.” Thus, he has kept the scope of the trial to narrowly focus on the civil charges surrounding Daleiden rather than on potential allegations surrounding Planned Parenthood.
The case is ongoing and will continue through at least Nov. 15.
During the midst of the hearings and trial, several disturbing claims have been made. One of the many examples concerned the harvesting of fetal brain tissue. According to the CMP website, “In her sworn testimony, Doe 12 admitted that when a fetal brain is able to be harvested, it is because the baby’s head may still be attached to the body after being pulled out of the womb. When confronted with her statements on undercover video about shipping ‘intact cases,’ she also did not deny that StemExpress harvests and transfers unborn children from completely intact abortions.”
As Christians, we believe that all people, including the unborn, are created in the image of God with infinite worth and value (Gen. 1:26-27).
These and other allegations imply that fetuses could potentially still be alive when their organs are harvested. One such disturbing account details how a fetal heart was momentarily revived during a procedure to remove the brain after it had already died.
How ought Christians to think about this?
Dr. C. Ben Mitchell, Ph.D., Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy at Union University and a research fellow of the ERLC corresponded by email to comment on this case:
There are several perverse ironies in this case. First, in nearly any other context David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt would be hailed as heroic protectors of human rights. When television journalists pose undercover to expose bad behavior in big business the public response is usually a positive “gotcha!” Or when police run sting operations to catch men soliciting prostitutes, the response is gratitude for cleaning up the streets of America. But when investigators go undercover to expose potential infanticide StemExpress has the temerity to go to court and some people raise eyebrows of disapproval against the whistleblowers. This demonstrates just how protected the abortion industry is in our culture.
Another perverse irony in this case is that if animal vivisectionists were on trial, the public outcry would be deafening. Most Americans, in fact most Westerners, find dissection of live monkeys, dogs, or rabbits morally reprehensible, and for good reasons. No one should be so cruel as to inflict unnecessary pain on another living creature. Yet in a culture numbed by the abortion of more than 50 million unborn children since 1973, exposure of late-term abortion and infanticide are treated like tabloid journalism and the whistleblowers are guilty until proven innocent.
According to the Washington Times, jury selection began Oct. 1 for the case against Daleiden and Merritt. The jury will decide whether the pair were guilty of fraud and trespassing. This is the latest perverse irony. In any other context the protection of human life would take precedence over corporate privacy claims. So StemExpress can keep its despicable practices hidden behind a veil of protection, while Daleiden and Merritt are exposed to public ridicule and possible jail time. Abortion in America has truly turned the world upside down.
As Christians, we believe that all people, including the unborn, are created in the image of God with infinite worth and value (Gen. 1:26-27). Throughout Scripture, the unborn are continually described as having worth and value and having human characteristics, including having a will (Gen. 25:21-26), emotions (Luke 1:44), having a purpose and destiny (Jer. 1:5), and even being able to be filled with the Holy Spirit as it was with John the Baptist (Luke 1:15). We ought to seek to defend their lives from abortion and from having their body parts used or sold in illegal ways. Pray that this case can be used to stir the consciences of Americans so that the brutal practice of abortion can be done away with.