Judge blocks release of recordings by anti-abortion group
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge on Friday blocked the release of any recordings made at meetings of an abortion providers’ association by an anti-abortion group that previously revealed secretly recorded videos of a Planned Parenthood leader.
Judge William Orrick in San Francisco issued a temporary restraining order against the Center for Medical Progress hours after the order was requested by the National Abortion Federation.
In his three-page order, Orrick said the federation would likely suffer irreparable injury absent a temporary restraining order “in the form of harassment, intimidation, violence, invasion of privacy, and injury to reputation.”
The National Abortion Federation sued in federal court in San Francisco, alleging the Center for Medical Progress infiltrated its meetings and recorded its members. The group says release of any audio or video would put members in danger.
“The safety and security of our members is our top priority,” Vicki Saporta, association president and CEO, said in a statement. “That security has been compromised by the illegal activities of a group with ties to those who believe it is justifiable to murder abortion providers.”
David Daleiden, a leader of the Center for Medical Progress who is also named in the suit, said in a statement that Planned Parenthood and its allies were trying to silence the group and suppress investigative journalism.
“The Center for Medical Progress follows all applicable laws in the course of our investigative journalism work and will contest all attempts from Planned Parenthood and their allies to silence our First Amendment rights,” he said.
The center has released several secretly recorded videos that have riled anti-abortion activists, including one Thursday of a Planned Parenthood doctor in Colorado. It has accused Planned Parenthood of selling fetal tissue for profit, which is illegal, and Republicans in Congress have begun discussing cutting off funding for the organization.
The undercover video released Thursday shows Dr. Savita Ginde, vice president of Denver-based Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, discussing prices of aborted fetal remains, the center says. Planned Parenthood issued a statement calling the video “misleading and deceptively edited.”
An earlier video shows Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services, describing techniques for obtaining fetal body parts for research. She spoke over lunch with activists posing as potential buyers from a human biologics company.
Planned Parenthood says it abides by a law that allows providers to be reimbursed for the costs of processing tissue donated by women who have had abortions. The payments cited by Planned Parenthood officials in some of the videos range from $30 to $100 per specimen, and the organization has subsequently confirmed that is the general range, although there is no fixed price list.
In Friday’s lawsuit, the National Abortion Federation alleges that the center created a fake company to get into the federation’s annual meetings in 2014 and 2015 and then recorded its members with the goal of smearing abortion-rights supporters.
John Nockleby, a professor at Loyola Law School and expert in privacy law, said California privacy law is stricter than some other states. To record a confidential communication in California, all parties participating in it must agree to the recording.
The National Abortion Federation has shown a strong likelihood of prevailing on its argument that the Center for Medical Privacy invaded its privacy, he said.
The National Abortion Federation “made it clear both in its written documents and also all kinds of other releases how important it was that everything about the meeting be confidential,” he said.
Orrick on Friday also blocked the Center for Medical Progress from releasing the dates of any of the National Abortion Federation’s future meetings and the names and addresses of its members.
A California court this week issued a temporary restraining order blocking the Center for Medical Progress from releasing any video of leaders of StemExpress, a California company that provides fetal tissue to researchers.
In one of the previously aired videos, a woman identified as a former StemExpress phlebotomist describes drawing blood and dissecting dead fetuses.
Associated Press National Writer David Crary in New York and writer P. Solomon Banda in Denver contributed to this report.