In this time of increasingly hostile opposition, we are pleased to report a victory for safety and privacy!
A federal district court judge handed down an order that keeps personally identifying information of our clients—providers of abortion care and researchers involved in fetal tissue donation—out of the hands of anti-choice extremists.
David Daleiden, the man responsible for last year's smear campaign against Planned Parenthood, and Zachary Freeman of the Family Policy Institute of Washington have both requested public records from the University of Washington Birth Defects Research Lab. Though we know they won't find what they're looking for (wrongdoing on the part of Washington State abortion providers), these requests are still cause for concern.
Over the past year, we have seen an increase in threats, harassment, and physical violence toward abortion care providers and scientists involved in fetal tissue research. For example, the so-called “House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives”—a GOP-led congressional panel examining practices around fetal tissue donation—continues its misguided campaign to harass and intimidate individuals participating in abortion, fetal tissue donation, and research nationwide.
Legal Voice is representing a group of people seeking to protect their identities and personal information from being disclosed in these records. We are thrilled that Judge Robart recognized the very real threat of violence and harassment toward our clients. He wrote: “Disclosure of Plaintiffs’ personally identifying information would […] do little to further the [Public Records Act’s] purposes of ensuring government accountability, while exposing Plaintiffs to the threat of violence or harassment and chilling First Amendment associational rights.”
While the court’s order is only preliminary, and we still have some steps to completely resolve this case, it is nonetheless an important victory, indicating that the Court agrees with our arguments on this important point: Washington law doesn't require disclosing information that would result in harm to our clients for their constitutionally protected rights to engage in research and advocacy.
Thank you to Legal Voice’s dedicated team of cooperating attorneys and staff, including Vanessa Soriano Power, Jill Bowman, Lauren Wigginton, and Lisa Falcon at Stoel Rives LLP, and Dave Edwards and Mallory Satre at Corr Cronin Michelson Baumgardner Fogg & Moore LLP.