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Undercover Videos Protected for Animal-Rights Activists, but Not Pro-Life Ones

Activists often use undercover video exposés as part of their advocacy campaigns. But it is increasingly apparent that the legality of such activities may not depend on the question of secretly taping, but on the ideology of the activists with the cameras.

For example, an Iowa “ag gag” law preventing the infiltration and filming of animal industry facilities was declared unconstitutional by a federal court. From the 2019 USA Today story:

A federal judge has ruled that Iowa’s “ag gag” law is unconstitutional, saying the industry-backed statute violates the First Amendment’s free-speech protections.

Senior Judge James Gritzner granted summary judgment Wednesday to a group that sued over the law.

“Today’s decision is an important victory for free speech in Iowa,” said Rita Bettis Austen, ACLU of Iowa legal director.

“It has effectively silenced advocates and ensured that animal cruelty, unsafe food safety practices, environmental hazards, and inhumane working conditions go unreported for years.”

Meanwhile, a different federal court has just enjoined pro-life activist David Daleiden and his Center for Medical Progress from publicly releasing undercover videos taken at an abortion-industry convention. From the celebratory National Abortion Federation press release:

Today, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted the National Abortion Federation (NAF) summary judgment and a permanent injunction barring David Daleiden, Biomax Procurement Services LLC, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), and their agents and co-conspirators from releasing recordings and materials they illegally obtained at NAF’s educational meetings.

So, are undercover videos constitutionally protected free-speech/press activities or properly subject to legal restraints? I guess it depends on whose ox — or fetus — is being gored.



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