Health

Some Of The Videos Targeting Planned Parenthood May Be Illegal, Court Rules

CREDIT: AP Photo/Eric Gay

Anti-abortion activists rally on the steps of the Texas Capitol to condemn Planned Parenthood

An anti-abortion group that has so far released four inflammatory videos accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from the sale of “aborted baby parts” will not be allowed to publish additional footage featuring a California company that facilitates fetal tissue donation, thanks to a temporary restraining order issued by the Los Angeles Superior Court.

The court order issued this week blocks the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) from releasing video footage featuring employees who work at StemExpress, a biological company that partners with some Planned Parenthood clinics to help transfer fetal tissue donations to medical research facilities.

The unfolding controversy plaguing Planned Parenthood has been focused on this type of tissue donation, which CMP misleadingly characterizes as trafficking in baby parts. So far, stoking moral outrage over the practice has been pretty successful. One video released by CMP, for instance, features a woman who says she was hired by StemExpress to dissect aborted fetuses. She recounts passing out on her first day on the job.

Planned Parenthood emphasizes that it’s simply helping patients who choose to donate fetal tissue, which can play a role in helping scientists develop treatments for degenerative diseases. The national women’s health organization has condemned CMP’s secret recordings for potentially violating the privacy of staff and patients at their clinics.

This week’s court order appears to be the first official legal action that has resulted from CMP’s videos, which have been heavily edited to cast Planned Parenthood in an unflattering light. According to the Associated Press, the temporary restraining order will remain in place until August 19, when the issue will be the subject of a hearing.

Despite the court order, CMP released a new video on Thursday that focuses on a Planned Parenthood employee in Colorado discussing the collection of fetal tissue. The latest footage is outside the purview of the Los Angeles Superior Court because it does not focus on StemExpress and was not recorded in California.

David Daleiden, the anti-abortion activist who has been spearheading CMP’s ongoing campaign against Planned Parenthood, called this week’s legal action “meritless” and emphasized that his group “follows all applicable laws in the course of our investigative journalism work.”

But there are some questions about the tactics that CMP used to obtain its secret video footage. On Wednesday, a group of legal experts sent a letter to California Attorney General Kamala Harris arguing that CMP may have violated the state’s Invasion of Privacy Act, which requires the consent of all parties before a “confidential conversation” is recorded. At issue is whether details about Planned Parenthood’s medical practice should be considered to be confidential.

Harris has already announced an investigation into the Center for Medical Progress to determine whether the group violated any state laws. Several Democrats in Congress are pressuring U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to follow suit.

Meanwhile, politicians on the other side of the aisle are pushing for a vote to defund Planned Parenthood, saying the videos provide clear evidence that the national organization shouldn’t receive taxpayer support. The issue may eventually trigger a government shutdown fight.

Another judge has temporarily blocked the release of similar videos after the National Abortion Federation filed suit this afternoon. The suit alleges that the Center for Medical Progress plans to release video from a NAF conference, despite signing a non-disclosure agreement. The federal judge ruled “that NAF is likely to prevail on the merits of its claims, the balance of hardships tips in its favor, NAF would be likely to suffer irreparable injury, absent an ex parte temporary restraining order, in the form of harassment, intimidation, violence, invasion of privacy, and injury to reputation, and the requested relief is in the public interest.”

UPDATE JUL 30, 2015 9:57 AM

This post has been updated to include information about CMP's latest video released on Thursday.

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UPDATE JUL 31, 2015 8:05 PM

Another judge has temporarily blocked the release of similar videos after the National Abortion Federation filed suit this afternoon. The suit alleges that the Center for Medical Progress plans to release video from a NAF conference, despite signing a non-disclosure agreement. The federal judge ruled "that NAF is likely to prevail on the merits of its claims, the balance of hardships tips in its favor, NAF would be likely to suffer irreparable injury, absent an ex parte temporary restraining order, in the form of harassment, intimidation, violence, invasion of privacy, and injury to reputation, and the requested relief is in the public interest.” A full hearing is scheduled for August 3.

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