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Planned Parenthood Files Lawsuit Against Center for Medical Progress

Planned Parenthood Federation of America on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit against the Center for Medical Progress, an antiabortion-rights organization that released misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue donation program, Modern Healthcare reports (Muchmore, Modern Healthcare, 1/14).

According to Beth Parker, chief legal counsel for the California Planned Parenthood affiliates, the lawsuit could last up to 18 months (Ferris, The Hill, 1/14).

Background

CMP secretly 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. In August 2015, the organization submitted a report to Congress that found that the videos were manipulated, making them unreliable for official inquiries into the organization (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/27/15).

Following the release of the videos, Planned Parenthood clinics received security threats at a rate nine times higher than usual, according to Modern Healthcare. Certain staff members whose lives were threatened had to move or go into hiding. There have also been several incidents of arson at Planned Parenthood clinics.

In November 2015, a man opened fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, killing three and injuring nine others (Modern Healthcare, 1/14). The man accused in the attack reportedly made statements referencing CMP's allegations about Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue donation program (Eckholm, New York Times, 1/14).

In addition, conservative lawmakers in Congress have sought to defund Planned Parenthood (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/7).

Meanwhile, according to the Times, none of the state or federal investigations into the allegations have found any evidence that Planned Parenthood committed wrongdoing (New York Times, 1/14).

Lawsuit Details

PPFA and its seven affiliates in California 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.

In the lawsuit, PPFA contends that antiabortion-rights activists took part in a "complex criminal enterprise" that spanned three years. The lawsuit states the defendants created the fake company, Biomax, and purported to be associated with a legitimate company that provided fetal tissue for medical research. According to the lawsuit, the defendants used false identities to access closed meetings of Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation and illegally recorded conversations without consent (New York Times, 1/14).

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.

PPFA says CMP's actions violated several federal laws, including the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, in addition to illicit secret recording, invasion of privacy, mail fraud and trespassing (Somashekhar, Washington Post, 1/14). PPFA states that CMP violated laws in three different states (The Hill, 1/14).

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 (Washington Post, 1/14). PPFA is requesting restitution for actual costs, compensatory damages, punitive damages and triple damages under the RICO Act, among other remedies (New York Times, 1/14).

Comments

Kathy Kneer, president of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said, "Today, Planned Parenthood is going on the offense" (The Hill, 1/14).

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of PPFA, said, "This case is about a network of antiabortion extremists and the laws they broke in order to spread lies and harm Planned Parenthood ... This entire smear campaign is a fraud built on illegal acts and a web of lies" (Washington Post, 1/14). She added that the lawsuit "names for the first time, the key individuals behind this fraud," noting, "They are some of the nation's most extreme anti-abortion activists" (The Hill, 1/14).