Federal Court: Anti-Choice Leader Must Hand Over Video Footage to National Abortion Federation

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Federal Court: Anti-Choice Leader Must Hand Over Video Footage to National Abortion Federation

Jessica Mason Pieklo

An order issued Tuesday directs the Center for Medical Progress to turn over any footage and documents to the National Abortion Federation before disclosing that material to Congress.

See more of our coverage on the effects of the misleading Center for Medical Progress videos here.

A federal court on Tuesday ordered that David Daleiden, head of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), turn over to the National Abortion Federation (NAF) and to the court any copies of materials he plans to provide in response to a congressional subpoena.

The order is the latest legal volley in the fight over heavily edited videos used by the anti-choice front group in a smear campaign against Planned Parenthood alleging the reproductive health-care provider violated federal law. NAF, whose members include abortion providers, sued to block release of additional footage. U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick in July issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) in NAF’s favor, blocking CMP from publishing videos containing information that NAF alleges CMP stole.

NAF alleges that CMP signed confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements, by which CMP never intended to be bound, in order to gain access to NAF’s annual meetings and members fraudulently and under false pretenses.

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The video footage has resulted in a series of congressional hearings spearheaded by Republicans who seek to use the disclosures as a means to defund Planned Parenthood.

Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Issues, issued the subpoena through this committee following one of the congressional hearings and after claims that CMP could not produce the full video footage because of Orrick’s TRO.

Chaffetz’s subpoena commands Daleiden, as executive director of CMP, to “produce documents, communications and video footage referring or relating to the acquisition, preparation, and sale of fetal tissue or relating to the involvement of Planned Parenthood and its affiliates in the sale of fetal tissue, manipulation of abortion procedures, and/or related conversations.”

CMP has already provided documents that are not covered by the TRO, which prevents defendants from disclosing any third-party recordings or information learned at any NAF annual meetings, including the dates or locations of future NAF meetings and the names or addresses of any NAF members, according to Orrick’s Tuesday order.

Orrick also held that Daleiden was barred from providing to Congress “any footage, documents, or communications that have not been specifically requested by subpoena.” The court made clear that it remained “concerned about the threat of irreparable injury to the privacy rights of NAF’s members.”

“[I]t is not lost on me that defendants seek expeditiously to provide information to Congress that they have tried in a variety of ways not to provide to NAF,” the order states.

CMP recently disclosed to NAF in legal filings that it has 500 hours of recordings from NAF meetings, recordings that it has refused to turn over to the organization as it has tried to stall the lawful discovery process into its illegal conduct, NAF explained in a statement following the order.

“We have never taken the position that Daleiden and the other Defendants in our case should be barred from providing compelled responses to lawful subpoenas,” said Vicki Saporta, NAF president and CEO. “Our focus has always been and continues to be the safety and security of our members. We urge Congress to be mindful of the security risks faced by abortion providers, and the need for confidentiality as they conduct their investigation.”

Since CMP released its highly edited, misleading videos this summer, NAF claims there has been an unprecedented escalation in hate speech and threats against abortion care providers. Planned Parenthood health-care providers in California, Washington, and Louisiana have been the target of violent attacks, including arson, since the release of the videos.