Judge issues restraining order against anti-abortion group
WASHINGTON — A federal judge in California issued a temporary restraining order Friday against the group that has released several undercover videos of Planned Parenthood leaders after it attempted to release secretly-recorded footage of a different abortion group.
The Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, secretly recorded meetings of the National Abortion Federation, an international organization of abortion providers. The Center for Medical Progress has made headlines over the last month for releasing heavily edited videos — in addition to other clips that the group says are unedited — that allegedly show Planned Parenthood illegally selling fetal tissue.
District Judge William H. Orrick III in San Francisco issued the restraining order out of concern for the safety of National Abortion Federation leaders.
“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,” he wrote.
David Daleiden, the head of The Center for Medical Progress, called the National Abortion Federation, to which multiple Planned Parenthood affiliates belong, a “criminal organization” in a statement Friday.
“The National Abortion Federation is a criminal organization that has spent years conspiring with Planned Parenthood on how to violate federal laws on partial-birth abortion and fetal tissue sales,” he said following the court’s ruling. “The Center for Medical Progress will contest any attempts to suppress our First Amendment rights to free speech or silence the freedom of the citizen press.”
But officials at the National Abortion Federation said the restraining order was necessary because they claim the videos were illegally recorded.
“NAF meetings are one of the only places where abortion providers can come together to learn about the latest research and advances in their field, and network without fear of harassment or intimidation,” Juliet Di Frenza, a spokesperson for the group. “Many of the attendees are high-profile targets of anti-abortion extremists.”
According to court documents, individuals affiliated with the Center for Medical Progress posed as a biotech company to gain access to the National Abortion Federation’s 2014 annual meeting in San Francisco and its 2015 annual meeting in Baltimore. Lawyers for the professional group said Center for Medical Progress members registered for the conferences using fake drivers licenses and signed forms agreeing not to videotape the meetings.
In California, where the abortion group filed for the injunction, it is illegal to record or eavesdrop on any confidential communication without the consent of all parties, and a state appellate court has ruled that the statute applies to the use of hidden video cameras to record conversations as well.
Daleiden has accused Planned Parenthood of using its political allies to prevent the release of the videos. The White House has dismissed the Center for Medical Progress as “extremists on the right” in its defense of Planned Parenthood.
Orrick was nominated to the court by President Barack Obama and donated to the President’s 2008 campaign, records show.
Earlier Friday, Daleiden told CNN he may release anywhere from eight to 10 more videos of his conversations with employees of Planned Parenthood in addition to the four videos the group has released so far.
Several investigations into Planned Parenthood have been launched following the videos, and presidential candidate and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul introduced a bill this week calling for the group to be defunded.
The number of lawmakers threatening to shut down the federal government unless Planned Parenthood is defunded is growing.
Eighteen lawmakers sent a letter to Republican leadership Thursday calling for Planned Parenthood funding to be tied to spending legislation and vowing not to support any spending bill until the nonprofit no longer receives government funds.
Planned Parenthood denies all wrongdoing and said defunding the group — which receives $500 million in federal funding, though none of the money can be spent legally toward abortion services — would prevent services for 2.7 million women.
“Rand Paul, (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell, (Texas Sen.) Ted Cruz, and (Iowa Sen.) Joni Ernst should probably listen to the medical community before they decide to legislate health care for millions of people,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said Thursday after the fourth video’s release.