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Federal judge rejects request to dismiss Planned Parenthood's lawsuit against CMP; Calif. ups penalties for secret recordings

A federal judge on Friday declined to dismiss Planned Parenthood's lawsuit against the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), an antiabortion-rights group that last year released misleading videos targeting the organization, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (AP/Sacramento Bee, 9/30).

U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick heard oral arguments in the case in July (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/13). Orrick on Friday ruled that racketeering as well as other claims Planned Parenthood has made against CMP may proceed (AP/Sacramento Bee, 9/30).

Background

CMP filmed the videos by meeting with Planned Parenthood staff while posing as buyers of fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood has stated that the videos were heavily edited and that the filmed officials did not conduct any illegal activities.

Following the release of the videos, Planned Parenthood clinics received security threats at a rate nine times higher than usual and experienced several incidents of arson. In November 2015, a man opened fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, killing three and injuring nine others. The man accused in the attack reportedly made statements referencing CMP's allegations about Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue donation program.

In addition, conservative lawmakers in Congress have sought to defund Planned Parenthood. Meanwhile, none of the state or federal investigations into the allegations has found any evidence that Planned Parenthood committed wrongdoing.

Lawsuit details

Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its seven California-based affiliates in January filed the lawsuit with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Defendants listed in the lawsuit include: CMP; CMP Director David Daleiden; Troy Newman, head of antiabortion-rights group Operation Rescue, who allegedly was involved with helping plan the videos; and several individuals presenting themselves in the videos as employees of a false medical company, Biomax Procurement Services.

PPFA says CMP's actions violated several federal laws, including the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), in addition to illicit secret recording, invasion of privacy, mail fraud and trespassing. PPFA states that CMP violated laws in three different states. The lawsuit also cites the substantial increase in threats that the organization has received since the videos were released, as well as the cost of responding to state investigations into the fabricated allegations.

The organization is seeking an injunction to block Daleiden and other individuals who participated in the videos from ever again accessing any Planned Parenthood clinics or conferences. PPFA is requesting restitution for actual costs, compensatory damages, punitive damages and triple damages under the RICO Act, among other remedies (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/13).

Calif. gov. signs recordings bill

In related news, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Friday signed a bill (AB 1671) that will increase penalties for recording parties without their consent, the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" reports (Koseff, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 9/30).

The new law, proposed by Assembly member Jimmy Gomez (D), would expand a state law that prohibits the audio or video recording of others without their consent. Specifically, the expanded law bars people who record such content from intentionally distributing it "in any forum, including, but not limited to, Internet Web sites and social media, or for any purpose ..."

Under the expanded law, first-time violators could be fined, imprisoned for up to one year or both fined and imprisoned. Repeat violators would face similar penalties, including a possibly higher fine (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/6).

Planned Parenthood, which sponsored the bill, cited a need for stronger deterrents against CMP and similar groups ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 9/30).