WLP Files Court Brief to Protect Scientists from Anti-Abortion Harassment & Violence

Scientists and researchers that conduct fetal-tissue research are seeking to block the disclosure of identifying information in fear of anti-abortion extremism.

The Women’s Law Project just filed an amici brief on behalf of the Southern Poverty Law Center and Feminist Majority Foundation in support of plaintiff scientists and researchers in a key reproductive rights case concerning protecting targets of anti-abortion harassment from harm.

The case, Jane and John Does 1-10 v. David Daleiden, concerns the limits that the constitutional right of informational privacy relevant to disclosure of state records under the Washington Public Records Act. The plaintiffs, who remained anonymous due to fear of harassment and harm, are seeking to keep their personal information off of any records provided to defendant David Daleiden.

The defendant is an anti-choice activist best known for publishing a series of misleadingly edited and thoroughly discredited hidden-camera videos targeting Planned Parenthood, starting in summer of 2015. The video campaign’s goal was to allege that Planned Parenthood engaged in illegal activity. Investigation revealed Daleiden’s allegations to be false, but anti-choice politicians used the propaganda to justify calling to defund Planned Parenthood and spend more money on investigations, all of which turned up no evidence of wrongdoing.

The defendant is currently seeking to obtain records of correspondence from the University of Washington related to fetal tissue research. A court temporarily blocked the release of the records, and the defendant appealed that decision.

The friend-of-the-court brief filed on behalf of anonymous plaintiffs argues that the district court’s preliminary injunction is essential to protecting the safety of healthcare professionals providing lawful medical care, and provides an extensive overview of anti-abortion harassment, violence and homicides.

From the brief:

Defendant David Daleiden’s actions that form the basis of this case have already had profound and deadly consequences, and the release of the un-redacted information that is the subject of this case will certainly lead to an increased level of fear among the plaintiff abortion providers and could possibly lead to even more violence.

Read the full document here.

In November 2015, in the wake of the propaganda videos released in Daleiden, three people were murdered and nine more injured in an attack on a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs. The gunman later identified himself as a “warrior for the babies.”

The videos have also created a climate of fear around scientists who conduct medical research using fetal cells, research that has benefited virtually every person in the country, and has long been settled as a matter of public interest.

Founded in 1971, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is one of the nation’s leading civil rights organizations and is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking
justice for vulnerable members of our society. The Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), which was founded in 1987, is a cutting-edge organization dedicated to promoting
women’s equality, protecting and advancing reproductive freedom, and embracing non-violence.

The brief was written by David S. Cohen, professor of law at the Thomas R. Kline School of Law, Women’s Law Project board member, and co-author of Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism; Krysten L. Connon, co-author of Living in the Crosshairs; attorney Thomas E. Zemaitis, and Women’s Law Project Senior Staff Attorney Susan J. Frietsche.

The Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

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About womenslawproject

The Women's Law Project creates a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives. To this end, we engage in high-impact litigation, advocacy, and education.
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