Are Undercover Videos Ethical?

By Sam Morris & Jonathan Six

Have you ever read Upton Sinclair’s groundbreaking novel “The Jungle?”

It was one of the first major exposes depicting horrible work conditions, a massive public health risk and an entire work industry with a complete disregard for human life.

Sinclair’s work forced massive shifts to occur in how Americans understood working conditions and helped pass acts like the Pure Food and Drug Act, which gave rise to what we now know as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In the end, the federal legislation was passed in spite of the industry’s attempts to keep it from happening. We see the same type of pushback from the abortion industry in relation to the recent undercover videos.

Interestingly, StemExpress was granted a temporary restraining order against the Center for Medical Progress from releasing any videos concerning their employees, specifically, a meeting at Bistro 33 in El Dorado Hills on May 22. Which seems a bit odd, doesn’t it? Why seek a court order to bar any videos from being released if there’s nothing to hide? If all that’s been done is the payment for the “shipping and handling” expenses of baby parts, they’re completely in the law’s bounds. So why the restraining order?

Sinclair wrote a book.Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 1.07.55 PM

Today’s debate is about the ethical nature of filming undercover videos and has forced us to think about this time and time again. How should we understand what is going on in the most recent release of videos that indicates Planned Parenthood and its affiliates are selling fetal tissues? How were these videos acquired, is it legal, is it ethical, does it matter?

Many look at this particular situation and casually dismiss the manner in which the footage was acquired because “the ends justify the means.” In other words, the good that can be brought about by exposing Planned Parenthood justifies lying and deception to get the information that is needed. The problem is, this is not a reasonable Christian ethic.

Moreover, in this system, what is moral is defined by who is prescribing the good outcome. A purely ends based moral system would allow someone to justify any act if they can demonstrate that good will be achieved. This is what Planned Parenthood does, justifying abortion on the basis of a women’s right to choose over the infant’s life to live. In the end, we recognize that even in our greatest attempts to bring about good we sometime fall short and must rest upon the grace of God found in the work of Christ on a cross.

In my (Sam) undergraduate degree we always talked about what Upton Sinclair did as a brilliant piece of investigatory journalism. He exposed the meat packaging industry for having horrid working conditions by going undercover to work in one of those plants in Chicago.

So what about the CMP videos? Do undercover videos recorded for the purpose of exposing Planned Parenthood, and subsequently StemExpress, differ from what Sinclair did over a century ago? No, it’s not any different.

Is what the Center for Medical Progress did morally wrong? Yes, they have been deceptive. But, this does not change the fact that they have unearthed some of the most morally reprehensible practices. Likewise, Planned Parenthood should not assume that simply because footage of their immoral activities was obtained deceptively this somehow absolves them (PP) of moral guilt.

Has the Center for Medical Progress exposed a massive issue in today’s society? Yes. Does that end justify the means? No. But this does not change what Planned Parenthood is doing.

God works in spite of the evil, not using the evil.

Posted in Blog.


  1. Thanks for this post! From the get-go, I’ve been worried that the manner in which these videos were obtained and released will actually end up shooting CMP in the foot. I’m not a lawyer and I don’t know the laws in every state, but I’ve been concerned that these videos weren’t obtained properly enough to be admissible in court– and I’ve wondered if that’s why CMP turned to YouTube for their release, as opposed to turning them over directly to the authorities. As awful and condemning as these videos are, I have to wonder if they’ll be useful–in an of themselves–toward providing the necessary evidence to pursue legal action; I’m just not sure that they will be, unfortunately. Sure, they can spur people on to investigate PP, but can these videos be used as evidence? I wonder how much MORE powerful these videos could be if they were taken and released properly.

    I also appreciate your dealing with the moral side to the issue, as well. CMP means for these videos to result in “good”, certainly as does every Christian who shares them. However, how shady, extreme, and alarmist do we appear when we share them? Does “the other team” even take us seriously? How can they when they make claims about the editing and bias shown in this questionably-obtained footage?

    Absolutely–good CAN come out of these videos. We must keep praying and talking and pursuing our leaders to investigate these accusations fully. I am thankful that these videos, if nothing else, have turned up the volume on this discussion. I pray that real action is taken!

    However, let this be a lesson to us. As we seek to engage culture and to pursue the Kingdom here on earth, we must do so morally, ethically, and legally. We cannot allow our actions to overshadow our purpose or our King.

    Thanks, guys!

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