Who Is the 26-Year-Old Man Behind the Planned Parenthood 'Sting' Videos?

Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy
·Contributing Writer

David Daleiden’s Center for Medical Progress video with Planned Parenthood executive.

On Tuesday, David Daleiden’s Center for Medical Progress released the second in what they’ve promised to be a months-long series of videos, which shows, in their words, “Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Medical Directors’ Council President, Dr. Mary Gatter, haggling over payments for intact fetal specimens and offering to use a ‘less crunchy technique’ to get more intact body parts.”

Like the first video, which was released last week, this 8-minute video is an edited synopsis of conversations that took place over a meal during which actors posed as representatives of a startup that facilitates the donation of fetal tissue from abortion providers to researchers. Planned Parenthood said the videos are meant to “mislead the public” through their “extremely heavy editing.”

The video opens with Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards stating “I want to be really clear. The allegation that Planned Parenthood profits in any way from tissue donation is not true.” It then pans to Gatter apparently haggling over the price of fetal parts.

“What would you expect for intact tissue? What sort of compensation?” asks a female voice. 

“Well, why don’t you start by telling me what you’re used to paying?” replies Gatter, as her image blurs into slow motion and menacing music plays. 

Also at issue in this video is patient consent. For researchers to use the fetal tissue, the specimens need to remain intact — which could mean that the providers would have to use a different method to abort first trimester fetuses. But, per Planned Parenthood protocol, women who decide to donate their fetal tissue are told that their care will not be changed in any way based on their decision. “If our usual technique is suction at 10 to 12 weeks,” says Gatter, “and we switch to using an IPAS [manual vacuum aspirator] or something with less suction to increase the odds that it will come out as an intact specimen, then we’re kind of violating the protocol that says to the patient that we’re not doing anything different in our care.” In the highly edited video, Gatter appears to say there’s no difference in pain between the two procedures, and says she can speak with Planned Parenthood’s top surgeon about using the gentler procedure on women who opt to donate their tissues.

The unedited version of the video shows the context in which the questions were asked.

The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) announced the release of this second video on Monday in a post authored by Operation Rescue employee Cheryl Sullenger. CMP filmed the videos with Operation Rescue acting as an advisor. Both Sullenger and her husband were found guilty of attempting to bomb an abortion clinic in 1988 and served jail-time for their attempted attack.

Related: Planned Parenthood Head Sorry for Tone in Sting Video on Fetal Tissue Use

Sullenger is now the senior policy advisor for Operation Rescue, which led a long-running harassment campaign against Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider who was assassinated in his church by Scott Roeder on May 31, 2009.

“These videos are part of a decadelong campaign of deceiving the public, making false charges, and terrorizing women and their doctors, all in order to ban abortion and cut women off from care at Planned Parenthood,” Eric Ferrero, vice president of communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told Yahoo Health in a statement.

This is the second in a series of videos expected to be released by the Center for Medical Progress, an organization that describes itself as “a group of citizen journalists dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances.”

Who Is David Daleiden?

And yet, despite the flurry of media attention around the videos and their contents, so much remains unknown and unclear about the origins and intentions of David Daleiden and his Center for Medical Progress.

CMP founder David Daleiden. (Photo: Center for Medical Progress)

“I first met David when he visited CMC [Claremont McKenna College] as a prospective student,” Kyle Kinneberg, a former CMC student, tells Yahoo Health. The David he refers to is David Daleiden, the 26-year-old man now making headlines for his undercover “sting” video on Planned Parenthood. Kinneberg got to know David better once he enrolled as a student at Claremont McKenna, a small, elite liberal arts college in the Los Angeles area. The two were both involved in the campus chapter of Live Action, a pro-life new-media movement that uses undercover investigations for its work to end abortion.

Related: Is It Ethical to Choose a Baby’s Sex? Kim & Kanye Fuel Debate

“David went through CMC in three years,” says Ralph A. Rossum, who taught Daleiden in the classroom and later served as his senior thesis advisor. Rossum serves as Salvatori professor of American constitutionalism in the Department of Government at Claremont McKenna and is an expert on constitutional law and interpretation and has authored books on both Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, two of the current Supreme Court’s most conservative members.

Rossum told Yahoo Health that he was immediately impressed with the young man he describes as a “bright and able kid.” Daleiden took one of Rossum’s courses in the fall of 2009; Rossum describes him as “a basically quiet student. There was no pontificating there on his part whatsoever.”

The topic of Daleiden’s senior thesis, which Rossum described as a “tour de force, a great piece of work,” was personhood in American abortion law and jurisprudence. He analyzed all the cases that have gone before the Supreme Court pertaining to reproductive rights to draw a conclusive answer as to the question of when life begins. “When can it be said that a person is denied equal protection under the law, denied the right to life, liberty, and property under due process,” clarifies Rossum. “For a long time, he has been very interested in the subject.”

“It was very clear that he was very sharp and very dedicated to the things that were important to him, including pro-life issues,” notes Kinneberg. “At CMC, the Live Action chapter focused on changing the hearts and minds of those who supported or were indifferent to abortion. We had occasional information tables on campus, which facilitated discussion with other students, and occasional sidewalk counseling near a clinic that performed abortions close to the college.”

Video activism began early 

Kinneberg and Daleiden were also temporarily banned from Claremont McKenna’s sister school, Pomona College, for secretly filming a Planned Parenthood representative when she came to speak to students at Pomona as part of their work with Live Action. The two young men asked the Planned Parenthood representative to address what they, and Live Action, believed to be the systemic cover-up by the organization of statutory rape. The college “claimed that the students violated a school policy” by taping the Planned Parenthood representative. The ban against the two men was eventually reversed.

At the time, Daleiden commented that, “It’s understandable that Planned Parenthood’s Serena Josel was angry at us for our recording — she made several spurious and even contradictory arguments defending Planned Parenthood’s lack of accountability for mandatory child abuse reporting. But campus disciplinary procedures should never be used as a tool for political retribution.”

Related: Unintended Pregnancies on the Rise Among 20-Somethings Like Bristol Palin: Here’s Why

An editorial in the Claremont Port Side, a student-run progressive campus publication, spoke out against the ban against Daleiden and Kinneberg. “Given my deep personal respect for the work of Pomona College’s Women’s Union and my personal disagreement with the pro-life views of the two students that were banned, I realized that remaining objective would be a challenge; however, I also recognize that silence in the face [of] injustice is unacceptable. … Having reviewed the video that was taken, it seems that the two students did not violate any policy or even act rudely. They were courteous and followed instructions reasonably.” The editorial goes on to comment on the failure of CMC’s administration to use due process in investigating the men following the issuing of a complaint.

“I knew he got up in some issue at Pomona College,” says Rossum of the incident involving the covert filming and ban. “He and another student of mine, Charles Johnson, came to me to talk about it. It struck me that the very notion of what Pomona was trying to do — it struck me as the opposite of what academic freedom was supposed to do. I gave them some encouragement. … Students should be free to attend events, and in the absence of an official policy against the taping of events, they should be able to do so.”

And he shares similar sentiments regarding Daleiden’s Center for Medical Progress video, explaining that the laws vary by state about when one can and cannot record an individual — and when the other person’s consent is needed. And yet, “The hype behind saying, ‘Gee my privacy was invaded’ when you’re talking about the ultimate destruction of a human life and then harvesting the organs — well, that strikes me as kinda strange. I’ll leave it at that,” said Rossum.

In a cached version of a now-deleted bio that appeared on the website for Live Action Films, Daleiden revealed “a fixation on anti-abortion activism that started early in life when he saw graphic images like those found in the Genocide Awareness project, a display of images of aborted fetuses that has been shown in public spaces … since the late 1990s,” reports the Daily Beast.

Live Action founder, 24-year-old Lila Rose(Photo: Getty Images)

In high school, Daleiden also met Lila Rose — who herself founded Live Action at the age of 15 — when both attended JSA (Junior State of America), a civics education and leadership program for high school students. The two went on to work on Rose’s Mona Lisa Project, an undercover film for which she posed as a pregnant 13-year-old seeking an abortion at a Planned Parenthood clinic, and Daleiden eventually became Live Action’s director of research in 2009, sometime around the end of his sophomore year and beginning of his junior year at Claremont McKenna.

“To the abortion industry: David is your worst nightmare”

“I don’t think one can separate his personality from his advocacy work, just as one cannot separate your personality from your journalistic work or my personality from my mathematical work,” Kinneberg, a PhD in mathematics, told this reporter. “I’ve known David to be consistent in the things he does. Just like most college students, he had several very close friends in college and from back home in San Jose. In high school, he had been involved in debate. At CMC, he worked for a campus publication, the Claremont Independent, and was involved in the Catholic student organization.”

Echoes Rossum, “This is a man of moral conviction and great ability, and I am proud to call him my student.”

Daleiden was also a member of the writing staff of the Claremont Conservative, the right-wing student publication founded by Charles “Chuck” Johnson, now 26, who went on to found GotNews, and gain great notoriety — and Internet infamy — for his tendency to harshly retaliate against individuals, and journalists in particular, who report on topics with which he disagrees. He also allegedly released the real name of the young woman known only as “Jackie” in the controversial Rolling Stone story detailing her alleged — and now disputed — gang rape while a student at the University of Virginia.

Johnson wrote on GotNews following the release of the Center for Medical Progress’ video last week:

“I wasn’t going to weigh in on David Daleiden, the genius behind the Planned Parenthood sting. I was going to let my friend have his moment without stepping on it. Unfortunately there are some people who are making things up about him and me and I wanted to correct the record. … In 2010 David told me about the market for baby body parts that Planned Parenthood was running. I told him he had to expose it. He told me he was going to. And now he has.”

Johnson continues, “David’s not just a friend; he’s a great friend. And he’s one of a generation of young people on the right who are changing the way we talk about politics. We understand the tech and how to disseminate our content. … After many conversations David changed my mind on abortion, and in time, was one of those who brought me over [to] the Catholic faith. … He also changed my life.”

Related: Is ‘Pregnancy Brain’ for Real?

Johnson credits Daleiden and Kinneberg’s video taken at Pomona for inspiring his work in defending free speech.

“To the abortion industry: David is your worst nightmare,” writes Johnson. “He knows all of your weaknesses and he has dedicated his life to finding them. He won’t quit. You’ll have to kill him.”

Kinneberg offers what can be understood as perhaps a softer view. In describing his own commitment to pro-life activism, Kinneberg says, “It began with trying to understand what constitutes a person. Through reason, I came to the conclusion that human development does not alter the nature of being, and so we all have been persons since the moment we were conceived. It helps too that this is supported by Catholic social thought. From here, it’s not difficult to see why engaging in pro-life advocacy work is worthwhile. I’d imagine that David’s motivation for advocacy was similar.”

“He is a man of moral conviction,” says Rossum. “He isn’t doing this to draw attention to himself. He is doing it because of his profound commitment to human life and the life of those born or yet to be born. He is in my estimation, given what he is doing [with the Center for Medical Progress], a moral hero.”

Originally from the larger Bay Area in northern California, Daleiden’s mother is a former president of the Davis, Calif., school board. His father is a member of the Davis Rotary club. His younger sister was a student-athlete at Tulane and is a AmeriCorps VISTA alum. Daleiden’s mother and sister did not respond to Yahoo Health’s request for comment.

In January of 2010 and while still a student at Claremont McKenna, Daleiden co-authored an article entitled “Mugged by Ultrasound” for the conservative publication the Weekly Standard with Jon A. Shields, an associate professor of government at Claremont McKenna who specializes in the topic of abortion and politics.

“Abortion rights activists have long preferred to hold themselves at some remove from the practice they promote; rather than naming it, they speak of ‘choice’ and ‘reproductive freedom.’ But those who perform abortions have no such luxury,” their article begins. 

“Instead, advances in ultrasound imaging and abortion procedures have forced providers ever closer to the nub of their work. Especially in abortions performed far enough along in gestation that the fetus is recognizably a tiny baby, this intimacy exacts an emotional toll, stirring sentiments for which doctors, nurses, and aides are sometimes unprepared. Most apparently have managed to reconcile their belief in the right to abortion with their revulsion at dying and dead fetuses, but a noteworthy number have found the conflict unbearable and have defected to the pro-life cause.”

And yet, for all of Daleiden’s efforts in college and his loud re-emergence into the public eye last week, the lasting impact of his work at Claremont McKenna is seemingly negligible. A CMC alum who was a freshman when Daleiden was a senior and incredibly engaged with politics on campus and who agreed to speak with Yahoo Health on the condition of anonymity shared that she had never even heard of Daleiden until the release of the Center for Medical Progress video last week. She also notes that, in her perception, there was not a strong, if even present, antichoice activist presence on campus during her tenure at CMC.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood officials told congressional investigators on Monday that Daleiden and his associates at the Center for Medical Progress had “harassed and unlawfully infiltrated clinics for years.”

In a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Roger K. Evans, a lawyer for Planned Parenthood, articulated his desire to share with the committee “some significant and disturbing facts about the individuals who have spurred this unfounded controversy, extremists who have spent a decade deceiving the public and making false charges” against Planned Parenthood.

Evans also called attention to the false pretenses under which Daleiden set up Biomax Procurement Services, the organization that Daleiden posed to be representing in his undercover videos, and that Daleiden has been involved in 10 “attacks” on Planned Parenthood in an eight-year period.

Requests for comment to Live Action founder Lila Rose and fellow antichoice activist James O’Keefe were not answered.

Read This Next: Coincidence … or Is It? Planned Parenthood ‘Sting’ Video Isn’t First to Derail Legislation