Editor's note: This interview was updated on Sept. 8, 2015.
David Daleiden, 26, has become Planned Parenthood’s public enemy No. 1 in recent months, as his nonprofit organization, the Center for Medical Progress, began releasing undercover videos aboutPlanned Parenthood facilities featuring abortionists discussing the sale of aborted baby body parts to medical-research companies. Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion provider, performing more than 300,000 abortions annually.
Daleiden called the surreptitious two and a half years of filming of Planned Parenthood staff the “Human Capital” project; currently, five of 12 videos have been released, which may be viewed on the organization’s website.
Court orders have temporarily halted the release of some of the other videos featuring leaders of StemExpress, a California company that provides fetal tissue to researchers, and footage taken at meetings of the National Abortion Federation.
He spoke with the Register last week about his pro-life vocation and his faith.
Did you get involved in pro-life work because of your Catholic faith?
It was actually the other way around. Pro-life work brought me closer to the Catholic faith. I grew up in a culturally Catholic home. I was the child of a crisis-pregnancy situation myself; my parents became pregnant with me their junior year of college, gave birth to me their senior year and got married after graduation. You can see me as a baby in their wedding pictures.
When I was about 15, I joined my first pro-life group. It was also as a teen that I discovered the extraordinary form of the Mass and became more serious in my faith.
I attended Claremont McKenna College [in Claremont, Calif.], not really sure what I wanted to do. I had a passion for pro-life work, and it became clear to me that that is what God wanted me to do. From a Catholic perspective, I think of it as my vocation. When I do this work, it brings me closer to God, the greatest degree of intimacy with the Lord. Since spiritually I was benefitting from pro-life work, I thought I’d focus on doing it full time.
Today, the three things that spiritually influence me the most are 1) the extraordinary form of the Mass, 2) the message of Our Lady of Fatima and 3) the pastoral teaching of Pope Francis. I also benefit from the influence of my parish priest and the priests of the Fraternity of St. Peter. These priests bring us the sacraments, which are channels of grace from God into our lives.
Do you consider yourself an abortion survivor?
I’d say anyone born after 1973 [when the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision struck down the nation’s anti-abortion laws] counts as an abortion survivor, with some of us having closer calls than others.
In your videos, abortion workers pick through the remains of newly aborted babies. Was it hard to keep your composure at these times?
Yes. It was the most difficult thing I had to endure.
What were the biggest surprises of your “Human Capital” project?
The first was how easy it was to gain access to the highest levels of the Planned Parenthood organization by saying we wanted to buy their baby parts (although we didn’t phrase it quite so crudely). We said the “magic words.” It was the fast-track pathway into the heart of the abortion industry.
Another surprise was about how conflicted many abortion doctors are about the work that they do. In all kinds of ways, they rationalize or intellectualize what they do, or reframe the discussion, so they don’t have to deal with the consequences of their actions. They don’t want to deal with the valid grief and remorse they feel.
One of the abortion doctors we got to know, Deborah Nucatola, would choke up while talking about the specifics of the procedure. She’d wipe her eyes, but then move on and try to act like nothing had happened. She was not the only abortion doctor we met like that.
Were you surprised at the attention you received?
Yes. We sensed that it would be a big story, but did not anticipate the magnitude of the response that was to come. Ten presidential candidates, for example, commented on the videos.
What’s the status of releasing additional videos?
There are currently two lawsuits against us, one by StemExpress and the other by the National Abortion Federation. StemExpress has partnered with the most Planned Parenthood affiliates to harvest body parts. In a meeting with its CEO, Cate Dyer, she says that the company has received fully intact fetuses. Now, if a chemical is used to kill a baby during the abortion, it kills cells and makes the fetus unusable. So the baby would have to have been born alive and killed by vivisection or exposure or in transit. Just how the babies died is a question for law enforcement. But we’re talking about infanticide, with the lawsuit being used to cover up evidence of criminal activity.
The National Abortion Federation is a major trade organization of abortion doctors, which is about half Planned Parenthood. They want to prevent us from releasing information that was obtained at their annual meetings.
We have a talented legal team helping us, but we’d always welcome more assistance.
Why not cross the border into Mexico and post the videos?
That’s a question for my lawyer. But I do predict that the remaining seven of the 12 videos will come out in the near future.
What are the worst and best reactions you’ve received?
I’ve received some threats, including some people who say they’ll follow me home and do bad things to me. But the worst reaction, to me, is those who choose not to watch the videos and instead parrot the line Planned Parenthood’s allies in the media are making.
On the positive side, I’ve seen many people saying they can’t believe what’s going on in their country and are demanding that their public officials do something to stop it.
Jim Graves writes from Newport Beach, California.