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Federal judge extends order barring CMP from releasing NAF footage

A federal judge on Friday extended an order that bars the antiabortion-rights group Center for Medical Progress from releasing secretly recorded footage of National Abortion Federation meetings, CNN/WMUR reports.

CMP said it will appeal the ruling (Scott, CNN/WMUR, 2/6).

Background

Last year, Judge William Orrick of the Northern District of California issued a temporary restraining order against CMP after NAF filed a lawsuit against the organization. The order blocks CMP from releasing any of its secretly recorded video footage of NAF's annual meetings in 2014 and 2015, as well as from releasing dates of NAF's future meetings and the names and addresses of NAF members (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/1).

In February, a Harris County, Texas, grand jury investigation into Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast that also stemmed from the CMP videos cleared PPGC of any wrongdoing and instead indicted CMP Director David Daleiden and employee Sandra Merritt. Both Daleiden and Merritt were indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a government record. In addition, Daleiden was indicted on a misdemeanor charge related to buying fetal tissue (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/5).

Latest developments

On Friday, Orrick issued a preliminary injunction that blocks CMP from releasing the recordings until litigation is complete (Levine, Reuters, 2/6).

In his ruling, Orrick raised concerns that the videos' release would violate NAF members' right to privacy. "It should be said that the majority of the recordings lack much public interest, and despite the misleading contentions of defendants, there is little that is new in the remainder of the recordings," he wrote, adding, "Weighed against that public interest are NAF's and its members' legitimate interests in their rights to privacy, security, and association by maintaining the confidentiality of their presentations and conversations at NAF Annual Meetings. The balance is strongly in NAF's favor" (CNN/WMUR, 2/6).

Further, Orrick noted that he had examined several hundred hours of footage and did not find any evidence that individuals at NAF meetings had engaged in illegal activity, as antiabortion-rights activists have claimed. According to Orrick, no one targeted by the footage "admitted to engaging in, agreed to engage in, or expressed interest in engaging in potentially illegal sale of fetal tissue for profit."

In addition, Orrick questioned CMP's argument that its actions are protected under the First Amendment, according to the New York Times. CMP has claimed its members were acting as undercover journalists. Orrick wrote that CMP's projects "thus far have not been pieces of journalistic integrity, but misleadingly edited videos and unfounded assertions" (Meier, New York Times, 2/6).