Earlier this month pro-life undercover journalist David Daleiden lost a bid to get a $195,000 fine against him overturned when the Ninth Court declined to consider his appeal. The fine was related to the 15 felony charges Daleiden and his investigative partner, Sandra Merrit, were hit with for undercover work exposing how the abortion industry was selling fetal body parts.
That work became public on July 14, 2015, when their organization, the pro-life Center for Medical Progress (CMP), released the very first of their secretly record videos. It showed Planned Parenthood’s Senior Director of Medical Services, Deborah Nucatola, calmly discussing over dinner the prices for harvesting body parts from the unborn children they were killing.
For the next three months CMP released more videos, at a rate of about one a week, with each more gruesome than the one before it. Though the mainstream media was slow to cover the videos, the regular ongoing release of new videos made them impossible to ignore. Planned Parenthood’s murderous work became such a huge public political issue that it was discussed in the presidential candidate’s debates. By any measure, the impact of these videos was phenomenal.
But some Christians criticized CMP and Daleiden, because their undercover work involved creating fake identities and pretending to be potential “fetal tissue” buyers so they could encourage Planned Parenthood employees to talk about the costs and availability of unborn children’s various body parts. In plain speak, Daleiden and Merrit lied to, and deceived Planned Parenthood. And some think that, no matter the good that resulted, Daleiden and Merrit were wrong to do what they did because it is always wrong to lie.
So can Christians, in good conscience, do undercover pro-life work like this?
In his July 20, 2015, blog post “The Ethics of the Righteous Sting Operations” Douglas Wilson argues that: “Scripture fully allows (indeed requires) deception under certain conditions, while flatly forbidding it in others.” And if we want to discern the one from the other “then we have to do some Bible study.”
Wilson takes his reader to Ex. 1:17-20 in which the Hebrew midwives lie to Pharaoh, in order to save Hebrew babies’ lives. Wilson notes there is a pretty direct parallel to the baby-saving activities of the CMP, with one difference. While the midwives were acting on behalf of their own people, the pro-lifers are acting on behalf of babies with no ties to them. “If there is a difference,” Wilson writes, “this video sting was even nobler.”
He also references Nathan’s confrontation with David about Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12) describing Nathan’s activities here as “deceiving someone in order to be able to confront them with the truth.” He writes that Nathan’s point was “to deceive and then unveil the deception in such a dramatic way was as to unmask the unrighteousness being confronted….The point is to reveal, not hide.”
The parallels to CMP’s activities are clear. We can and should thank God for the astonishing work this group has done on behalf of the unborn. And if you want to encourage CMP to continue those efforts, you can find out how to help on their website.