David Daleiden Scores Court Win Over University’s Fetal Tissue Research Documents

Under the terms of a Dec. 8 legal settlement, the University of Washington will have to provide unredacted information about its research that uses tissue and organs harvested from aborted babies.

David Daleiden (c), is shown in court in 2016 when he was indicted for his undercover videos that allegedly depicted how Planned Parenthood markets tissues and body parts removed from unborn babies.
David Daleiden (c), is shown in court in 2016 when he was indicted for his undercover videos that allegedly depicted how Planned Parenthood markets tissues and body parts removed from unborn babies. (photo: Eric Kayne / Getty Images)

Following a six-year legal battle, a prominent pro-life activist and investigative journalist has blocked the University of Washington from redacting information in documents related to its research that uses fetal tissue and fetal organs from aborted babies. 

“We expect to get a much clearer picture of this arrangement, [which] Planned Parenthood itself held out as the gold standard for fetal harvesting in America,” David Daleiden, the founder of the Center for Medical Progress, told the Register after a Dec. 8 settlement was reached. 

Daleiden filed a public records request with the taxpayer-funded public university back in 2016 for documents about the acquisition of and procedures for fetal body parts used in research. His request also sought information about whether abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood, sold body parts for profit, which would violate federal law.

Several anonymous individuals associated with the university and Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington to block the release of certain information. This led the university to provide Daleiden with heavily redacted documents as the litigation was pending for more than half of a decade. 

Daleiden told the Register there were large blacked out portions of text in the documents, which made it difficult to pinpoint the type of information that was redacted. In addition to that, some of the documents, such as the order forms for fetal body parts, were missing altogether. 

However, as depositions of the anonymous plaintiffs were approaching, their lawyers came to the table and agreed to a settlement that will provide Daleiden with nearly all of the information he initially requested, and give him new versions of the documents with significantly fewer redactions. The University of Washington will also need to pay the Thomas More Society, whose lawyers represented Daleiden, $30,000 in attorneys’ fees.

“It’s a great win as we head into Christmas,” Peter Breen, a vice president and senior counsel on the legal team at the Thomas More Society, told THE Register. “Very heartening.”

The Register reached out to the University of Washington for comment, but did not receive a response by the time of publication. 


Nearly 13 Years’ Worth of Records

The settlement will require the university to provide nearly 13 years’ worth of records from 2010 until Nov.18, 2022, which Breen said he expects will be thousands of pages long. The settlement forces the disclosure of all documents, communication, policies and procedures related to the acquisition and research use of human fetal tissue, organs, cell products, placenta or other body parts from induced abortions. 

The university will also need to disclose all tissue request forms related to aborted fetal tissue, all records of fetal tissue specimens and any evidence of payments associated with the acquisition or research use of human fetal body parts. It must also provide records of any grants, applications, reports or other correspondence between UW and the National Institutes of Health in relation to human fetal tissue research.

Additionally, the university must disclose all documents and communications about aborted fetal tissue or products of conception with Drs. Sarah Prager, Laurel Kuehl, Elizabeth Micks, Erin Berry or Denise Bayuszik. All of these doctors provide abortions.

Daleiden said he expects the new documents to arrive in batches on a rolling basis over the next several weeks. The documents will cover a broader set of categories than before, ensuring that the American public learns comprehensive details that allow them to be fully aware of what the abortion industry and government institutions are doing with fetal body parts. 

When Americans do learn the details of infants being “dehumanized by abortion” and commodified “for commercial or scientific benefit,” Daleiden said, “people across the board are shocked and horrified.” 

According to Daleiden, commercial and research demands create incentives for abortionists to engage in illegal procedures, such as partial-birth abortion and infanticide. He added that patients often surrender their children for experimentation following death by abortion, without being truly told what is happening.

And with the end of Roe V. Wade, Daleiden said he hopes this type of information can inspire change. 

“This is a new era now,” Daleiden noted. “... It’s time for our country to reckon with the equal humanity of our brothers and sisters in the womb and the inhumanity of how the [abortion industry] exploits them and their families.”


An Unfriendly System

Even though Daleiden will finally receive a more complete version of the documents, Breen said the lawsuit should have never been brought in the first place and the court should have never entertained the plaintiffs who sued him. 

According to Breen, government officials often drag their feet in hopes that the requester will stop fighting for the information. He expressed that it is very difficult to shine the light on these topics in Democrat Party-influenced states like Washington, in which officials will turn a blind eye if abortionists might be violating the law.

In the University of Washington case, the anonymous plaintiffs tried to bring First Amendment claims to the court to prevent the release of some of their communications and information because they were engaged in activities that are constitutionally protected. Initially, the district court agreed with some of these claims, which forced the Thomas More Society to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals three times. 

Breen said it’s a misuse of the First Amendment to justify the redaction of information, one that generated serious government transparency concerns. He noted that public records laws exist to ensure that the public can access information to evaluate the actions of taxpayer-funded enterprises. 

Daleiden initially filed a counter lawsuit against the University of Washington, alleging that the university violated Washington’s public records laws with the redactions. However, he dropped his lawsuit as part of the settlement agreement.

“The district court misapplied the First Amendment to try to conceal the nature of the activities of these abortionists and those who work with aborted children’s body parts and organs,” Breen commented. 


Daleiden’s Other Legal Battles

Even with the end of this lawsuit, Daleiden’s legal battles regarding his journalistic endeavors are long from over. In 2015, the Center for Medical Progress released a series of undercover videos unmasking how Planned Parenthood markets tissues and body parts harvested from unborn babies.

As a result of his efforts to expose the abortion industry, he continues to be embroiled in other legal fights, one of them being criminal charges in California for his activities as an undercover journalist. He was charged under a California law that prohibits individuals from taping private conversations without the consent of both parties and could face up to a decade in prison if convicted. 

According to the Thomas More Society, which is also representing him in this case, this law has never been used against undercover journalists. 

Breen said he is glad there was a settlement in the Washington University lawsuit so the lawyers can focus on defending Daleiden against the California charges in the coming year. Daleiden had previously faced criminal charges in Texas for his undercover journalism projects, but those charges were later dropped.

Despite the challenges with the lack of government transparency and openness, Breen argued that outcomes like this are why those in the pro-life movement need to fight vigorously. He said the settlement will weigh on people’s minds and the pro-abortion side will have to consider whether they want to fight a similar six-year legal battle, only to end up giving the investigator what he asked for in the beginning. 

Breen said, “That’s a positive going forward.”