On Wednesday, a gag order from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra that would have hindered pro-life reporting on the case against undercover journalists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt was denied by Judge Christopher Hite.
According to LifeSiteNews, the order “muzzled” the journalists’ lawyers from “referencing the aborted-baby body-parts traffickers in ‘public comments’ to media.”
The order reportedly claimed an incident of road rage some 55 miles from the courthouse was caused by a LifeSiteNews report, though the report was published after the incident, according to Merritt’s lead attorney, Horatio Mihet of Liberty Counsel.
“[Becerra] attempted to relate a purported incident of road rage that one of the witnesses claims that she encountered fifty-five miles away from the courthouse,” Mihet claimed. “Without any evidence whatsoever, they tried to allege that it was inspired by a LifeSiteNews article that was published the next evening after the incident.”
“This was a preposterous and ludicrous motion,” the attorney said, noting that the order “was at least the fourth attempt in as many court days to silence the defendants.”
“Fortunately this morning the court denied this motion as well and the defendants and counsel remain free to discuss publicly outside the courtroom the testimony that takes place inside the courtroom,” Mr. Mihet added.
According to the pro-life outlet, the order asked the presiding judge to mandate defendants “not reference the victims or any matter which may be taken to identify them or their livelihood in any matter. We request an order to protect the safety of the Does witnesses.” It further asked the court to “exercise its discretion to limit the statements the parties may make in public in regards to the witness testimony until after the conclusion of the preliminary hearing.”
Daleiden and Merritt, undercover journalists for the Center for Medical Progress, were hit with a stunning 15 felony charges in March of 2017 for their undercover work relating to the abortion industry. The undercover videos, which have been confirmed to be undoctored, allegedly showcased abortion providers, including from Planned Parenthood affiliates, harvesting and profiting off of baby body parts, as previously covered by The Daily Wire. In one video, a Planned Parenthood executive notably haggles over prices of fetal remains while sipping wine and joking about wanting a Lamborghini. Another portion of shocking video allegedly reveals that abortion techniques are altered in a way to harvest organs better that will later be sold.
The journalists have had an uphill battle, fighting bias every turn. In June, for example, a Ninth Circuit panel declined to consider an appeal from Daleiden, forcing him to pay out a $195,000 penalty to his pro-abortion opponents. Daleiden was hit with the penalty for using video footage which allegedly violated a dubious gag order.
The felony charges against Daleiden and Merritt are so extraordinary that even the left-wing Los Angeles Times admitted it was a “disturbing” act of “overreach.”
“It’s disturbingly aggressive for Becerra to apply this criminal statute to people who were trying to influence a contested issue of public policy, regardless of how sound or popular that policy may be,” the editorial said. “Planned Parenthood and biomedical company StemExpress, which was also featured in the videos, have another remedy for the harm that was done to them: They can sue Daleiden and Merritt for damages. The state doesn’t need to threaten the pair with prison time.”