Abortion Foe Begs to Give the Government Videos

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – An anti-abortion group wants a federal judge to clarify whether a restraining order barring it from releasing secretly filmed videos of the National Abortion Federation extends to subpoenas issued by government officials.
     The temporary restraining order issued by U.S. District Judge William Orrick on July 31 and extended on Aug. 3 bars the Center for Medical Progress from disclosing videos it secretly gathered during the National Abortion Federation’s annual meetings.
     Specifically, the order prohibits the center from “publishing or otherwise disclosing to any third party any video, audio, photographic, or recordings taken, or any confidential information learned, at any NAF meetings.”
     The order also bars the release of dates, names and addresses related to the meetings.
     CMP filed a motion on Thursday evening asking the court to clarify whether it can produce the prohibited information in response to investigative subpoenas and other requests for information coming from government officials.
     The National Abortion Federation filed a lawsuit in late July saying that CMP created a fake company called Biomax Procurement Services and signed confidentiality agreements agreeing not to film meetings or discussions at the federation’s headquarters.
     CMP had previously distributed videos of Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sale of fetal body parts for medical research, with CMP members posing as members of a human biologics company. In one of the videos, a Planned Parenthood executive describes the techniques for procuring fetal parts for research.
     The videos stirred a firestorm of outrage from abortion foes across the country.
     CMP says the videos also resulted in numerous federal and state investigations relating to the practices discussed in the published videos. The center has already been contacted by investigative agencies conducting official proceeding with requests for information that “is arguably covered” by the restraining order, according to its motion.
     On the day the order was issued, the Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate demanded that CMP produce all of the videos in its possession relating to the acquisition, preparation and sale of fetal tissue, as well as all documents involving individuals or entities that acquire or resell fetal tissue, CMP says.
     Similarly, CMP was issued with a subpoena on Monday from the civil enforcement arm of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office seeking the same information.
     “Materials covered by the [restraining order] are responsive to this subpoena. The subpoena indicates that failure to comply could result in legal penalties or contempt,” CMP says.
     CMP says it wants to cooperate in official investigations while also fully complying with the restraining order.
     The center argues that providing the videos to the government as part of official proceedings would not violate its putative non-disclosure agreements with the National Abortion Federation, nor would it constitute tortious invasion of privacy because such disclosures would receive “absolute” privilege under California law.
     Going one step further, CMP says that the restraining order “would violate significant considerations of federalism and intergovernmental comity if it prohibits disclosure pursuant to the ongoing investigations of state agencies.”
     Given the “urgency of these issues,” CMP asked the court for a telephone hearing on its request for clarification as soon as possible.
     Attorneys for CMP and the National Abortion Federation did not immediately respond to requests for comments.
     CMP released its sixth video targeting Planned Parenthood on Wednesday morning. The latest video features Holly O’Donnell, a former employee of a company that provides tissue to biomedical researchers, discussing her role in gathering blood and tissue from Planned Parenthood to be used for medical research.
     O’Donnell, who described herself as “pro-life,” said in the video that Planned Parenthood and her former employer, Stem Express, took fetal body parts from pregnant women without their consent.
     Planned Parenthood denies that it has broken any laws.
     Wednesday’s video “shows someone who has never worked for Planned Parenthood making false and outrageous claims, without any evidence to back them up,” said Eric Ferrero, vice president of communication for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
     “Planned Parenthood follows all laws – period. This latest video is part of a fraud intended to deceive the public and advance an extreme political agenda, and nothing on this video substantiates false claim from anti-abortion activists,” Ferrero said.

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