Planned Parenthood is suing the pro-life group that released a series of undercover videos exposing its role in offering fetal tissue from aborted babies to harvesters for compensation.
The group Center for Medical Progress responded on Thursday that the lawsuit is “frivolous” and they have “done nothing more than tell the truth about Planned Parenthood’s lawless operations.”
The lawsuit, filed in a California district court, calls CMP a “complex criminal enterprise” and alleges that they created false companies and identifications, violated contracts, and illegally taped Planned Parenthood officials “with the ultimate goal of interfering with women’s access to legal abortion.”
Last summer, the Center for Medical Progress released a series of undercover videos featuring top Planned Parenthood doctors discussing the transfer of fetal tissue from aborted babies to harvesters for compensation. The videos were part of an investigative report on the organization’s role in the fetal tissue trade, “Human Capital.”
CMP members posed as representatives of a fictitious company BioMax and met with Planned Parenthood doctors and tissue harvesters from the company StemExpress to discuss a partnership, offering various amounts of money for fetal organs.
The Planned Parenthood doctors discussed prices for “specimens” and at times flippantly discussed the whole matter, joking about the price or casually describing the grisly procedure of extracting fetal tissue from an aborted baby. One doctor suggested that the abortion procedure could be altered to better extract the fetal tissue.
A former technician for the company StemExpress, who worked with Planned Parenthood clinics, said that harvesters would obtain fetal tissue from aborted babies without the mother’s consent.
In their suit, Planned Parenthood accused Center for Medical Progress of using deception and falsehood to tape Planned Parenthood officials without their consent. California law requires all parties to consent to the recording of a private conversation.
“Defendants peppered Planned Parenthood staff with requests for meetings, lying at every step about who they were and what they were doing,” the suit alleged. “Planned Parenthood senior medical and other staff members made time to meet with Defendants in good faith. These doctors and other staff were completely unaware that they were being secretly taped and that they would later be featured in malicious videos.”
Center for Medical Progress accused Planned Parenthood of illegally profiting from the tissue transfer because they were overcompensated. Federal law allows for the donation of fetal tissue for medical research as long as the compensation is “reasonable,” to cover operating and shipping expenses. The compensation cannot be for “valuable consideration.”
Planned Parenthood responded in its lawsuit that “there is no financial gain for women or health care providers involved in tissue donation, and the few Planned Parenthood affiliates that have facilitated fetal tissue donation have done so solely for the benefit of medical research.”
The videos were heavily edited and “manipulated,” Planned Parenthood claimed. However, in addition to the investigative videos that were edited for brevity, CMP released the full footage of each of the conversations on its website.
In its lawsuit, Planned Parenthood also alleged that the release of the videos produced an uptick in violence against abortion clinics. “There was a dramatic increase in the threats, harassment, and criminal activities targeting abortion providers and their supporters and, in particular, Planned Parenthood health centers after the release of Defendants’ videos,” the suit read.
In particular, Planned Parenthood had blamed the videos for creating the hostile conditions that fueled a mass shooting outside a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in November that killed three. The accused shooter, Robert Dear, reportedly said “no more baby parts” after he was apprehended, according to law enforcement, and called himself a “warrior for the babies” in court.
One expert with a knowledge of the history of violence in the name of the pro-life cause told CNA that the shooting did not seem connected to the violent fringe of that movement. It more resembled a lone-wolf attack perpetrated by a mentally ill man, rather than a well-planned act of terror against a clinic in the name of the pro-life cause, the expert said.
The Center for Medical Progress had responded to the shooting by condemning the “barbaric” act “by a violent madman.”
“We applaud the heroic efforts of law enforcement to stop the violence quickly and rescue the victims, and our thoughts and prayers are with the wounded, the lost, and their families,” the Nov. 28 statement added.
Eleven states, two House committees, and the Senate launched investigations into Planned Parenthood over allegations of wrongdoing. A special House committee has been created to investigate the organization in 2016.
Planned Parenthood receives hundreds of millions of federal dollars per year, mostly through Medicaid payments and family planning health grants. Both the House and Senate have voted to block federal funding of the organization, but their budget reconciliation bill that also gutted the Affordable Care Act was vetoed by the president Jan. 8.