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Anti-Abortionists’ Name Hunt Drags on in Seattle

SEATTLE (CN) — A federal judge Tuesday gave eight University of Washington birth-defect researchers 14 days to amend their lawsuit seeking to protect their identities from an anti-abortion crusader.

Eight employees of the University of Washington, Planned Parenthood and three hospitals sued the university in August, objecting to the disclosure of their identities in a public records request from anti-abortion activist David Daleiden.

Daleiden released "undercover" videos last year that purported to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing selling fetal tissue. He and an associate posed as representatives of a medical research company and made secret recordings of their meetings.

The videos sparked outrage and contributed to a Republican effort to defund Planned Parenthood. Persuasive evidence that the videos had been heavily edited also led to several lawsuits, and to legislative action in California to protect medical professionals from being secretly recorded.

In response to calls to investigate Planned Parenthood, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued a report in November 2015 that stated there was no evidence that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue or profited from donations for research purposes.

In February, Daleiden filed a public records request with the University of Washington for documents about "the purchase, transfer, or procurement of human fetal tissues, human fetal organs, and/or human fetal cell products at the University of Washington Birth Defects Research Laboratory."

Daleiden filed the request with Zachary Freeman, with the Family Policy Institute of Washington, an anti-abortion group.

They requested communications with the research lab and clinics that provide abortion services in Washington and Idaho, and named certain employees at the clinics.

Eight Doe plaintiffs filed a proposed class action in response, seeking to redact their personal information from Daleiden's request, "to protect their safety and privacy."

U.S. District Judge James Robart granted the employees a temporary restraining order pending their motion for an injunction. Daleiden moved to dismiss the action, which Robart granted Tuesday, with qualifications.

Robart agreed with the plaintiffs that Washington's assistant attorney general had the authority to waive sovereign immunity in this case, but concluded that the allegations are not substantial enough to support subject matter jurisdiction.

He granted them 14 days to file a third amended complaint, finding that they could allege civil rights claims against the university official who responded to Daleiden's public records request. If they fail to respond by the deadline, he will dismiss their complaint without prejudice, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

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