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SAN FRANCISCO, California, November 6, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — The fifth week of the massive Planned Parenthood federal civil suit against the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) ended with witnesses for the abortion giant claiming the CMP videos exposing its trafficking in aborted baby body parts led to fears of increased violence against abortionists.
Last Friday’s “action-packed day in court” featured some “really, really tough testimony,” according to Peter Breen, one of David Daleiden’s lawyers and senior counsel with the Thomas More Society, in an update on the case.
That included National Abortion Federation (NAF) head of security Michelle Davidson “talking all about violence and the terrible things she was claiming about the pro-life movement,” and Drexel University professor and lawyer David Cohen and author of Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism testifying as an expert witness on “abortion-related violence.”
“Planned Parenthood is just trying to get this in front of the jury to inflame them,” Breen said.
However, defense lawyers scored points on cross-examination, and will be calling their own security and statistics experts after Planned Parenthood wraps up its case this week, he noted.
In the retaliatory suit, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and 10 affiliates are seeking damages in potentially millions of dollars and accusing CMP defendants of multiple crimes for going undercover at Planned Parenthood and NAF meetings in 2014 and 2015. The CMP videos released in July 2015 sparked public outrage, Congressional investigations, and an ongoing Department of Justice criminal investigation of Planned Parenthood.
And Planned Parenthood has not alleged that any of the defendants themselves “ever called for violence, not even that they called for picketing,” Breen said.
Rather, Planned Parenthood is arguing that because everyone knows there’s been pro-life violence in the past, their massive expenditure on security after the CMP videos exposed them was reasonable to prevent violence in the future, and the defendants should have known Planned Parenthood would need security to prevent violence.
The defense’s response is that violence against abortionists has happened in the past, but it doesn’t follow a pattern — if anything, it’s going down — so there was no reason to believe it would happen after the video release. They argue that, in fact, there was no spike in violence after the videos’ publication, proof the security was unneeded and the defendants should not be liable for it, just as they are not liable for how the public responded to them exercising their Constitutionally protected speech.
What ‘story’ do NAF numbers tell?
Davidson testified about the NAF’s document “Violence and Disruption Statistics” from 1977 to 2014, stating NAF data is considered so reliable that they are quoted without question by the media, and used by the FBI, local police departments, and as court evidence.
She said that 60 percent of NAF members reported alleged incidents via a designated individual who input the information into the document, and claimed that her team verified the accuracy of the report — testimony that could not be refuted at the time.
Davidson testified that “violence” in the NAF document included trespass, and “disruptions” include “hate mail, email/internet harassment, bomb threats, things like that.”
NAF keeps track of these incidents because “our main goal is to provide – to maintain the safety of our abortion providers,” she said. “These statistics tell a story about what they experience on a daily basis.”
However, when Catherine Short of the Life Legal Defense Foundation asked Davidson on cross-examination what story these “statistics” — such as that 75 percent of the “violent” incidents in a given year may be simple trespass — actually told, Davidson admitted she could see no trends, revealing NAF collects mere numbers, not statistics, as it claims.
Davidson also refused to say what percentage of NAF’s total incident reports come from Planned Parenthood, and admitted she relied on PPFA to ensure the incidents its affiliates report are all actually motivated by anti-abortion sentiment, and that Planned Parenthood submits only numbers of incident types which NAF then adds to its records.
Violent incidents not by pro-lifers
Early in the trial, Planned Parenthood witness Jenna Tosh, CEO of Planned Parenthood of California Central Coast, said on cross-examination by Short that Planned Parenthood’s incident reports do not take into account the motives of the perpetrators.
Tosh admitted that while police determined an arson at Planned Parenthood Thousand Oaks was committed by someone with a personal grudge against an employee and had nothing to do with abortion, the incident report was not edited to reflect that. She asserted Planned Parenthood’s incident reports are “factual reports” and motive is not a component.
When Short asked Davidson to confirm that NAF had included the Thousand Oaks arson in its records of “anti-abortion violence,” Orrick ruled that the question was beyond the scope of her testimony.
Short also asked if the 2006 kidnapping in the NAF document was a case of parents kidnapping their daughter and taking her across state lines for an abortion, but Davidson admitted she didn’t know “offhand.”
Davidson and earlier witness Vikki Graziani, PPFA’s former conference planner, both testified that NAF’s security was “the gold standard.”
But Davidson contradicted Graziani’s assumption that NAF security vetted exhibitors at the NAF trade shows, testifying that vetting “wasn’t part of my department’s duties,” and that she didn’t train NAF personnel how to check IDs, points out a CMP summary.
And while she asserted security at the NAF conferences was extremely tight and that the defendants went to extraordinary lengths to circumvent it, her testimony revealed NAF security staff were only responsible for keeping out people without conference badges or with phony conference badges.
‘Jesus loves you’ could be a threat: Expert on ‘abortion-related violence’
Cohen, Planned Parenthood’s expert witness on “abortion-related violence,” revealed on cross-examination by Daleiden lawyer Charles LiMandri of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund that he had defended three Planned Parenthood affiliates in Pennsylvania, filed briefs in the currently suspended NAF lawsuit against CMP and on behalf of abortion providers regarding partial-birth abortion, and gave legal advice to Planned Parenthood leadership involved in the current lawsuit.
“So he is totally biased, improper as an expert for federal court purposes,” noted Breen, but nevertheless, the judge “let him in” despite defense objections.
Cohen testified that eight abortion providers were killed between 1973, when the Roe v. Wade decision declared abortion a constitutional right, and 2014.
To research his 2015 book, he and a co-author interviewed 87 abortionists about the “harassment” they dealt with daily, which Cohen defined to include peaceful picketing.
His book defined a “threat” as whether the person receiving it “reasonably feels fear and intimidation from it,” and Cohen reiterated his deposition testimony that a letter to an abortion provider saying “Jesus loves you” could be a threat “regardless of the intent of the person delivering it.”
LiMandri asked Cohen if he “studied harassment or violence” against those opposed to abortion, and specifically, if he knew about the individual “holding an anti-abortion sign in a wheelchair” who was “shot and killed” in 2009, the “abortionist pulling a gun as he’s driving out of the abortion clinic on any peaceful demonstrators outside the abortion clinic,” the San Francisco woman kicked by a pro-abortion activist, the “old man being repeatedly kicked on the ground,” or that Daleiden had received death threats.
Cohen replied he knew of the three latter incidents only because of his involvement in the case, and that his expertise was “anti-abortion violence and harassment.”
He also admitted he supports no legal limits on abortion up to nine months, and that his use of false statements and pseudonyms in his books — which he said was needed to safeguard abortion providers — is protected by the First Amendment, as noted in a CMP summary.