A federal judge in San Francisco issued a temporary restraining order Friday against an anti-abortion group, preventing its release of secretly recorded footage taken at meetings with abortion providers.
This is the second restraining order aimed at Center for Medical Progress (CMP), an anti-abortion group, this week. On Tuesday, a Los Angeles County judge’s order prohibited the center from releasing any videos from its investigation into StemExpress, a California company that works with Planned Parenthood to provide fetal tissue to researchers.
CMP sparked controversy this month after releasing several carefully edited videos that they claimed would unveil illegal practices by abortion providers, including one on Thursday of a Planned Parenthood doctor in Colorado. The group has accused Planned Parenthood of selling fetal tissue for profit, which is illegal.
The undercover video released Thursday shows Dr. Savita Ginde, vice president of Denver-based Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, apparently discussing prices of aborted fetal remains, the center says. Planned Parenthood issued a statement calling the video "misleading and deceptively edited."
Planned Parenthood says it abides by a law that allows providers to be reimbursed for the costs of processing tissue donated to research by women who have had abortions.
The National Abortion Federation, which works with multiple Planned Parenthood affiliates, sued the CMP in federal court this week, claiming the group infiltrated its meetings and recorded its members. The federation argued that any released recordings would put its members in danger.
Judge William Orrick in San Francisco issued the temporary restraining order and wrote that without it, the NAF would potentially suffer irreparable injury "in the form of harassment, intimidation, violence, invasion of privacy, and injury to reputation.”
David Daleiden, the head of the CMP, bashed the federation and defended his group’s actions 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 wrote.
While selling fetal organs for a profit is a felony, the video footage is highly edited, making it unclear exactly what the officials are discussing.
According to court documents, members of the CMP posed as researchers from a biotech company to gain access to two NAF annual meetings in 2014 and 2015, CNN reports. Under California law, conversations can only be recorded with the consent of all parties involved, making the group’s undercover recording of conversations illegal.
Yet the CMP’s motives have garnered more attention than its methods. According to CNN, Mr. Daleiden has accused Planned Parenthood of using its political allies to prevent the release of the recordings. In turn, the White House defended the health services provider and denounced the CMP as "extremists on the right."
Officials have launched several investigations into Planned Parenthood since the first video’s release. On Tuesday, the US Senate agreed to vote on new legislation proposed by Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky that would defund the health care provider.
Planned Parenthood receives more than $500 million of its $1.3 billion annual budget from federal and state programs, but says none of it is used for illegal activities, the Christian Science Monitor reported. Current laws ban the use of federal dollars for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s life.
The group says stripping it of its these funds would prevent services such as medical exams, birth control access, and routine screenings for 2.7 million women.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.