SF judge blocks release of Planned Parenthood secret videos

A federal judge in San Francisco Monday¬†continued a temporary order that blocks an anti-abortion group from releasing any secretly recorded videos made at annual meetings of an abortion providers’ association.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick said the temporary restraining order against the Center for Medical Progress will remain in effect until an Aug. 27 hearing on a request by the National Abortion Federation for a preliminary injunction.

Orrick said he based his ruling on a confidentiality agreement signed by members of the center when they posed as executives of a fake tissue procurement company and infiltrated the annual meetings of the federation in San Francisco and Baltimore in April 2014 and April 2015.

Orrick said at a hearing the order applies to:

“… anything that happened during the time of the annual meeting, whether in the hallway, in restaurants, or in the meeting itself … to anything the defendants wouldn’t have had access to but for the signed agreements.”

In July, the Irvine-based Center for Medical Progress released excerpts of four secretly made videos, made at locations other than federation meetings, that showed two conversations with Planned Parenthood doctors and two Planned Parenthood meetings.

The group claims the videos show the doctors discussing the sale of fetal tissue obtained during abortions. Planned Parenthood maintains the videos were taken out of context and that it does not sell tissue that has been donated by patients for medical research.

The National Abortion Federation said in a lawsuit filed Friday that it believes the center members may have made similar recordings at the organization’s annual meetings while posing as employees of a phony company called Biomax Procurement Services.

The Washington, D.C.-based federation says it fears release of recordings or information will make doctors and counselors who attended the meetings subject to harassment, intimidation and threats of violence, as has happened to the two Planned Parenthood doctors.

The federation is a professional association of doctors, clinics, Planned Parenthood affiliates and hospitals.

Orrick’s order today continues a temporary restraining order he issued Friday. It bars the center, leaders David Daleiden and Troy Newman, and associates from releasing any videos, audio recordings or confidential information obtained at the meetings.

In a response to the lawsuit filed Monday, the center did not acknowledge that its members secretly recorded any videos at the meetings, but asserted its members:

“… are engaged in lawful 21st century investigative journalism.”

The federation contends the defendants acted illegally and also waived any free-speech rights they may have had when they signed the broadly worded non-disclosure agreement.

Outside of court, Derek Foran, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said:

“They’re not journalists because journalists seek the truth. The defendants are engaged in a smear campaign against abortion providers.”

Foran said he believes the ban on release of recordings applies to any recordings that include information gained at the meetings, even if the recordings were not made at federation meetings.

The lawsuit contends that in the video excerpts already released, center members posing as tissue buyers who interviewed the two Planned Parenthood doctors referred to other physicians whose names they apparently obtained at the National Abortion Federation meetings.

Asked whether the center plans to release additional videos, the group’s attorney, Brian Chavez-Ochoa, said:

“As time continues to march on, our clients will be releasing videos not covered by the order. These will be determined.”

The civil lawsuit includes claims of racketeering, fraud, misrepresentation, breach of contract, violation of privacy, and violation of a California law that bans secret recordings of confidential communications.