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Discovery Dispute Rages Over Abortion Videos

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Despite ending their fight over a congressional subpoena, an anti-abortion group continues to dispute discovery requests by a foundation of abortion providers whose meetings it secretly taped.

Both sides debated the discovery issues before U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick III during a hearing on Friday.

The National Abortion Federation, which sued the Center for Medical Progress in July, wants the names of people the center allegedly conspired with and fake ID cards it allegedly used to infiltrate and record the foundation's meetings.

The center's founder, David Daleidan, claims his First Amendment rights mean he doesn't have to turn over names of people he communicated with or those that supported the center's mission of exposing the allegedly illegal sale of aborted fetal tissue.

"Communicating with these individuals concerning his plan to bring down the illegal sale of aborted baby parts is at the heart of his First Amendment associational privilege," the center stated in a heavily redacted joint discovery letter filed on Oct. 14.

In recent months, the center has released at least six videos of Planned Parenthood officials and others discussing the preservation and transfer of fetal tissue for research.

A study commissioned by Planned Parenthood found four of those videos were deceptively edited to imply wrongdoing and that the videos showed no evidence that the nation's largest abortion provider sold fetal tissue for profit as alleged.

The center's attorneys said they combed through over 500 hours of unedited audio and video last week to comply with a subpoena issued by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

"The request from Congress was for full, unedited video," the center's attorney, Peter Breen, said. "They were very insistent that everything be produced in full, unedited format."

Breen said he raised concerns with Congress about the center's investigators' bathroom breaks and private moments and conversations that were also part of the recordings. The attorney said Congress assured him that only committee members and committee staff may access the review room where the footage is played and that no recording devices are allowed in that room.

"I'm proud of our team for getting through the videos so quickly and getting it to Congress in the unedited, unredacted format," said Breen.

Before turning over the materials to Congress, the center first gave a full copy of the data to Orrick to comply with a ruling he issued on Oct. 6.

"I received the hard drive with the materials that were submitted to Congress," Orrick said during the Friday hearing.

The center still has two subpoenas issued by the states of Arizona and Louisiana seeking materials protected under the restraining order Orrick issued in July.

Maria Syms, of the Arizona Attorney General's office, took part in the discovery hearing on Friday by telephone.

Syms asked the judge to reconsider his mandate ordering the center to turn over all materials it plans to give Arizona before complying with its subpoena, including materials not specifically covered by his temporary restraining order.

Orrick said that although he's not interested in materials that go beyond the scope of the case itself, he prefers to see all of the subpoena materials to make sure the defendants are not hiding anything.

"I am concerned about the production that goes to you, and I won't have a way - if there's a complaint about it - of determining whether my word has been followed or not unless I know exactly what's been provided," said Orrick.

Syms also objected to the court allowing the foundation to share with its members recordings of their conversations that will eventually get turned over to Arizona, saying that could compromise the state's investigation.

"I understand your point," replied Orrick. "I'm not sure that it's right, but I understand it."

Orrick ordered the center to meet and confer with the defendants on the Arizona subpoena materials by Nov. 6. From there, he said the foundation would have 20 days to file a motion to quash the Arizona subpoena.

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