Undercover reports on fetal body parts trade face legal hurdles
A citizen journalism group investigating abortion clinics’ procurement of organs and tissue from unborn babies has pledged to contest a court order barring the release of recordings made of an abortionists’ conference.
The Center for Medical Progress said that it follows “all applicable laws” and that it will fight “any attempts to suppress our First Amendment rights to free speech or silence the freedom of the citizen press.”
On July 31 federal judge William Orrick in San Francisco issued a temporary restraining order in response to a lawsuit against the center from the National Abortion Federation.
The court order said the National Abortion Federation could suffer irreparable injury, such as “harassment, intimidation, violence, invasion of privacy, and injury to reputation,” the Associated Press reports.
The abortion federation’s lawsuit said that the journalist group created a false company to gain entry to its annual conferences in 2014 and 2015 and then recorded its members. The federation alleged that the investigators violated non-disclosure agreements the investigators had signed.
According to the abortion group, the non-disclosure agreement includes a ban on videotaping or recording the meeting. It said it only allows use of conference information “to help enhance the quality and safety of services” of its conference’s participants.
The Center for Medical Progress said the lawsuit was “meritless.” It characterized the abortion federation as “a criminal organization that has spent years conspiring with Planned Parenthood on how to violate federal laws on partial-birth abortion and fetal tissue sales.”
The center has conducted a three-year investigation of abortion providers and fetal harvesting. The center’s investigators went undercover as a fetal tissue procurement company.
Beginning July 14, the organization started to release video summaries, as well as complete video footage, of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the harvesting of organs from aborted babies and reimbursement for the tissue. One discussion covers the possible alteration of the abortion procedure to ensure an “intact specimen.”
Federal law generally prohibits the selling of human tissue, but allows for the donation of tissue with “reasonable payments” for the “transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.” It explicitly prohibits the sale of tissue for “valuable consideration.”
On July 28 a Los Angeles Superior Court judge issued a separate restraining order blocking the Center for Media Progress from releasing any video of leaders of the California-based company StemExpress. The company reportedly provides fetal tissue for research in partnership with Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics.
The Center for Media Progress also called the StemExpresss lawsuit meritless, adding that it intends to “cover-up this illegal baby parts trade.”
The videos have renewed debate over abortion and over taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. While federal funding for abortion is generally forbidden, the government funds other services of the abortion provider.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, chair of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, has asked Senators to vote to withhold federal funding of Planned Parenthood.
“It has long been troubling to many Americans that the nation’s largest abortion network, performing over a third of all abortions, receives over half a billion taxpayer dollars a year. This concern has rightly grown in recent years,” he said in an Aug. 3 letter.
He noted that the latest reports revealed the abortion provider’s willingness to “traffic in fetal tissue from abortions,” and that to alter abortion procedures to obtain more intact organs showed “a callousness toward women and their unborn children that is shocking to many Americans.”
Posted August 4, 2015