Health

Planned Parenthood Sues Group Behind Video Smear Campaign

CREDIT: AP Photo, Jacquelyn Martin

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Oversight Committee

Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday against the people involved in creating and promoting the deceptively-edited videos that claim the organization profits from the sale of aborted fetuses. The lawsuit asserts that the group that released the videos, the Center for Medical Progress, engaged in various forms of illegal conduct — including mail fraud, illegal secret recording, and invasion of privacy.

“The people behind this fraud lied and broke the law in order to spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “This lawsuit exposes the elaborate, illegal conspiracy designed to block women’s access to safe and legal abortion, and we filed the case to hold them accountable.”

The lawsuit states that over the course of nearly three years, multiple members of CMP obtained fake government I.D.s and formed a fake tissue procurement company, Biomax, in an effort to elbow their way into private medical conferences and health care centers, like Planned Parenthood. Their work came to a crux last July, when the group released the first of several videos featuring conversations they had with Planned Parenthood staff, where heavy editing made it seem like the nonprofit was profiting off of the remains of aborted fetuses.

Planned Parenthood denied the accusations, maintaining that the fetal tissue they did donate to research organizations never came with a price tag. But CMP’s campaign quickly became the fodder for anti-abortion legislation in Congress and GOP presidential candidates’ talking points.

House Republicans launched an investigation into the videos’ claims, leading Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards to appear before the House Oversight Committee to defend the organization’s use of fetal tissue. A slew of states also conducted their own investigations of their local Planned Parenthood clinics — but, so far, 11 of them have concluded by clearing Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing. None have found the organization guilty.

“CMP’s reckless and dangerous actions have created a poisonous environment that fuels political attacks on access to reproductive health care and feeds threats against our health centers,” said Kathy Kneer, CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California. Kneer described the lawsuit as an example of the organization going on the offensive.

The move hasn’t impressed anti-abortion groups, who continue to insist the group is selling “aborted baby parts.”

“Planned Parenthood is again trying to distract the public from its barbaric and illegal practices of profiting off of the body parts of unborn children,” wrote John-Henry Westen, editor of anti-abortion website LifeSiteNews, in a reply to the news.

Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit isn’t the first against the group. Shortly after the videos were released, the National Abortion Federation filed a federal lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order to prohibit CMP from making any further videos public. But Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit demands much more from CMP and its affiliates, requesting “restitution of actual damages, compensatory and punitive damages and triple damages for violations under the civil RICO claim, as well as attorneys’ fees.”