Court blocks anti-abortion group's videos: What is Center for Medical Progress?

The temporary restraining order will remain in place until the Senate hearing on whether to bar federal aid for Planned Parenthood.

Laura Buckman /Star-Telegram via AP
Mary Daley (c.) speaks with fellow Catholic protesters during an anti-abortion rally outside of Planned Parenthood in Fort Worth, Texas, on July 28, 2015.

The Los Angeles Superior Court has issued a temporary restraining order preventing an anti-abortion group from releasing any video from a sting investigation of the company StemExpress, which provides fetal tissues for research in conjunction with Planned Parenthood.

Videos from a similar undercover investigation conducted by same organization has sparked recent controversy around Planned Parenthood's tissue donation practices. The US Senate is expected to vote on a Republican effort to bar federal aid for Planned Parenthood in the aftermath of the videos' release.

The order issued Tuesday prohibits the Center for Medical Progress from releasing any video of surreptitiously recorded conversations with three high-ranking StemExpress officials. The temporary restraining order will remain in place until a hearing on Aug. 19.

David Daleiden, founder of Center for Medical Progress, said in a statement on Wednesday that StemExpress was using "meritless litigation" to cover up an "illegal baby parts trade."

"The Center for Medical Progress follows all applicable laws in the course of our investigative journalism work," said Mr. Daleiden who was previously the director of research for the anti-abortion group Live Action.

On its website, the center describes itself as "a group of citizen journalists dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances. We are concerned about contemporary bioethical issues that impact human dignity, and we oppose any interventions, procedures, and experiments that exploit the unequal legal status of any class of human beings."

The Center for Medical Progress appears to be a relatively new organization. The first post on the group's blog is dated July 6 of this year and its Twitter account, @CtrMedProgress, only goes back to May 30.

The group has released three surreptitiously-recorded videos since July 14. One of the videos shows Planned Parenthood's senior director of medical services discussing procedures for providing fetal tissue to researchers.

The videos have riled anti-abortion activists. Currently Planned Parenthood’s website is not available, following two cyberattacks in the past week. A note on their website reads: “Our site is not available due to an attack by extremists.”

Following the court order, Planned Parenthood’s spokesman also said StemExpress is "grateful its rights have been vindicated in a court of law."

Placerville-based StemExpress provides human tissue, blood and other specimens to researchers. Planned Parenthood is one of the company's providers of fetal tissue.

Planned Parenthood says the only money it receives are small reimbursements for processing and transportation costs.

Donation of fetal tissue for medical research purchases is legal. However, purchase of tissue, solicitation or acceptance of tissue as directed donation for use in transplantation, and solicitation or acceptance of tissue from fetuses gestated for research purposes is unlawful if the transfer affects interstate commerce, according to federal law. A person who violates the laws will be fined or imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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