In a victory for abortion providers under attack from anti-abortion extremist group Center for Medical Progress (CMP), a United States District Court judge issued a preliminary injunction ordering CMP, Biomax Procurement Services, CMP leader David Daleiden, and Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue and founding board member of CMP, to halt the release of several surreptitiously-recorded videos filmed illegally at National Abortion Federation (NAF) meetings.
On Friday, after studying over 500 hours of illegally obtained “secret” video footage, Judge William H. Orrick ruled NAF was not in violation of any laws, determining no evidence existed suggesting that any of its members “engag[ed] in, agreed to engage in, or expressed interest in engaging in potentially illegal sale of fetal tissue for profit.” Orrick also rejected claims made by CMP that David Daleiden and his associates should be protected as investigative journalists. Instead, Judge Orrick described CMP’s exploits not as “pieces of journalistic integrity,” but as “misleadingly edited videos and unfounded assertions.”
In his order, Judge Orrick noted that the “documented, dramatic increase in the volume and extent of threats to and harassment of NAF and its members” since the release of the first set of CMP videos was “critical” to his decision to grant the preliminary injunction which will remain in place until the conclusion of the trial.
“There’s no denying that the fraudulent campaign launched by the defendants has put abortion providers at risk,” said NAF President & CEO Vicki Saporta in response the court’s ruling. “We are very grateful that the judge granted this preliminary injunction, which will help protect the safety and security of our members.”
Prevented from releasing any further videos of abortion providers at NAF meetings, CMP yesterday turned its attention to Saporta herself, releasing a new deceptively-edited video recording featuring Saporta accepting an award at an ACLU ceremony. That footage was spliced with other footage of former NAF staff taken at a reproductive health conference.
Just two weeks ago, a grand jury in Houston, Texas indicted David Daleiden and his CMP colleague Sandra Merritt on felony criminal charges related to their CMP activities. Both Daleiden and Merrit turned themselves in to authorities last week and are out on bail. Their attorneys have told reporters that the pair plan to plead not guilty. They will next appear in court in Houston on March 28.
In its malicious videos, CMP makes the false claim that abortion providers illegally sold fetal tissue. This claim has been widely debunked, with numerous Congressional and state investigations finding no evidence of any wrongdoing. Despite these facts, a Select Investigative Panel has been formed in the Energy and Commerce Committee of the House of Representatives to investigate “big abortion providers.” The Panel has, so far, not been willing to investigate CMP leaders or other anti-abortion extremists, something advocates find unacceptable as abortion providers have faced increased levels of threats, intimidation and harassment.
In December, the Feminist Majority Foundation launched an ongoing campaign calling on the House Select Investigative Panel to redirect its focus to anti-abortion violence, or to disband.
Media Resources: National Abortion Federation Press Release 2/05/2016; The New York Times 2/06/2016; Jezebel 2/8/16; Houston Chronicle 2/4/16; Feminist Newswire 1/26/16; Feminist Majority Foundation