California Should Leave Undercover Video Activists Alone

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Remember the undercover Planned Parenthood videos that caused such a fuss last year? Their creators, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, are back in the news:

Two antiabortion activists whose controversial undercover videos accused Planned Parenthood doctors of selling fetal tissue were charged Tuesday with more than a dozen felonies by California prosecutors.

….Prosecutors contend Daleiden and Merritt used fake identities and a fabricated medical research company, BioMax Procurement Services, to secure the meetings with healthcare providers, according to court papers filed in San Francisco Superior Court. Prosecutors also contend they made secret recordings of attendees and speakers at the National Abortion Federation’s 2014 conference in San Francisco.

I continue to have zero sympathy for these two. They edited their videos deceptively and basically lied about everything they did. Nevertheless, I don’t like the idea of prosecuting them. This was a legitimate investigation, and no level of government should be in the business of chilling it. The First Amendment doesn’t say anything one way or the other about how honest one’s speech has to be.

This also strikes me as political grandstanding. I imagine that if this were a couple of liberal activists secretly recording meetings with anti-immigration groups, Attorney General Xavier Becerra wouldn’t so eager to go after them.

Needless to say, I Am Not A Lawyer, and there might be a good case that they broke California law. If they did, though, so much the worse for California law.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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