Planned Parenthood Wanted Reporters to Sign NDAs. Here's How One Journalist Responded.

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Posted: Nov 23, 2019 3:10 PM
Planned Parenthood Wanted Reporters to Sign NDAs. Here's How One Journalist Responded.

Source: AP Photo/Jim Salter, File

Planned Parenthood held a happy hour for media professionals this past week, which is a rather common occurrence, especially in political circles. But, according to VICE's Carter Sherman, the abortion giant wanted reporters to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), something she felt "can stifle reporters’ ability to do their job."

According to Sherman, this isn't the first time Planned Parenthood has asked her to sign an NDA. Last year when she covered their “Power of Pink” volunteer training in Detroit, the media registration also included an NDA agreement that barred reporters from sharing "confidential information" with readers. 

The reporter pushed back against Planned Parenthood over the happy hour, saying she planned to expose the NDA controversy. At that point, the organization claimed the gag order "was a mistake," and a Planned Parenthood staffer sent an email to all reporters planning to come to the event saying "none of them would have to comply with an NDA."

From VICE:

That email said the NDA, which was sent less than 48 hours before the happy hour and applied to anyone who showed up, was sent in error by a new employee.

I’d pushed back on the NDA for the “Power of Pink” event, too. Initially, a Planned Parenthood staffer assured me that the agreement included “allowances for journalists to report.” They ultimately let me attend without agreeing to it, but it took a few days and the organization’s tech team had to build a special online backdoor to bypass that part of the registration.

Planned Parenthood told VICE News it is not their policy to require NDAs of reporters covering the organization.

But she did concede that the organization had asked reporters for NDAs, but characterized those request as mistakes.

"That said, our interactions with reporters around this have been less than perfect," Sackin said. "It is not — and has not been — our official policy to require any reporter to sign an NDA that would prevent them from reporting an event we’re asking them to cover, or for informal off-the-record events. In instances when we have asked reporters to do so, it has been the result of miscommunication and misunderstanding between staff, or of staff members out of an abundance of caution enforcing rules that should not apply to journalists.”

When reporters write stories and speak with sources, there are different types of interviews. Sometimes a source will provide a journalist information "on background," which generally means the reporter can share that information but not attribute it to the source. "Off the record" means the source will tell a reporter something that cannot be published. But having a legal document takes things to a new level.

It's highly likely that Planned Parenthood started this practice after the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released videos of organization employees talking about selling fetal tissue for medical research. A federal judge recently ruled CMP "caused substantial harm to Planned Parenthood by infiltrating abortion industry conferences to secretly tape abortion doctors and staff." The pro-life organization was told to pay $870,000 in punitive damages.