Pro-life organizations whose leaders parodied an abortionist’s promotional video that portrayed how “good” and “normal” the procedure was by inserting graphic images of aborted babies have been cleared of copyright infringement claims.
U.S. District Judge James V. Selna has ruled in a case brought by the Northland Family Planning Clinic in Detroit against the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, The Apologetics Groups and others.
The abortion business had created the video to carry to potential customers “the message … that abortion is not uncommon, and that women are good regardless of how they exercise their reproductive rights.”
“The Northland video conveys that the clinic offers guidance to women who are struggling to feel good about themselves after having an abortion and women who are grappling with the decision whether to terminate their pregnancy,” the judge wrote.
“Northland founder, Rene Chelian, and her employees spent significant time and creative effort writing and revising the script they used to create the Northland video,” the judge said.
Then, however, TAG and others created parodies that revealed the true horrors of abortion, utilizing the feel-good tenor of the abortionist’s video and inserting “graphic, up-close images of the surgical procedure of dismembering and removing fetuses, many of which have discernible limbs or appear to be nearly viable,” the judge said.
“The TAG video closes with Northland’s name, telephone number, and the words ‘Your Dead baby at 10 to 12 weeks,’ superimposed over a bloody, dismembered fetus,” he said.
Eric Holmberg of TAG, according to the judge, “testified that he created the TAG video to expose the ‘fallacies’ of the Northland video.” The CBR later followed with a similar project, and the abortion company sued for copyright infringement.
“In this case, the TAG and CBR videos are parodies of the Northland video because they use segments of the Northland video in alternation with macabre images of abortion procedures to deride the original work’s message that abortion is ‘normal’ and that good women choose to terminate their pregnancy,” the judge said.
“”Defendants turn the Northland video’s message ‘on its head’ by alternating clips of the calm, empathetic doctor explaining that choosing to have an abortion does not make you a bad woman, with shockingly graphic images of fetuses being dismembered and removed from the birth canal,” he continued.
“For example, in the beginning of the accused videos, a clip from the Northland video plays in which the narrator says, ‘deciding to have an abortion is a normal decision’; then, the screen cuts to a video clip in which it appears that a fetal hand reaches out of the birth canal and gloved fingers – ostensibly those of a doctor – expose more of the hand before using forceps to rip off the appendage.
“Of course, defendants’ abundantly clear message is that deciding to have an abortion is anything but a ‘normal decision’ made by ‘good women.’
“The accused videos continue in that vein, contrasting the serene environment of the narrator’s office, her soft, conservative attire, her calm voice, and her message that women are good regardless of how they exercise their reproductive rights, with the gruesome and seemingly savage ‘reality’ of an abortion procedure.”
Officials with the Thomas More Law Center, who worked on the case, said, “The entire purpose of crafting the parodies was to use clips of the Northland video to transform the work and expose its deadly lies.”
Richard Thompson, chief counsel to the organization, said, “This is a tremendous victory for the pro-life movement and their constitutional rights to free speech. Abortionists don’t want the public to know the truth, that abortion is the taking of innocent human life. So they do everything they can to squash that truth, including using the courts. In this case they utterly failed.”
Northland complained that it was planning to license the video and generate income, but the parodies destroyed its value.
But the judge was unsympathetic, quoting the United States Supreme Court that “when a lethal parody, like a scathing theater review, kills the demand for the original, it does not produce a harm cognizable under the Copyright Act.”
Erin Mersino, who worked on the case for the Thomas More Law Center, said, “Our clients’ videos were clearly transformative. The court made the right decision by throwing out this baseless lawsuit filled with wrongful accusations.”