March 24, 2016

Regional Planned Parenthood affiliate joins lawsuit over videos

The Planned Parenthood affiliate that represents New Mexico and other Rocky Mountain states is joining a federal lawsuit against an organization that distributed videos in an attempt to discredit the women’s healthcare provider.

Planned ParenthoodPlanned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast announced on Wednesday they would join various Planned Parenthood affiliates from California and Planned Parenthood Federation of America in a federal civil lawsuit against the Center for Medical Progress and others over videos that, when edited, appeared to show Planned Parenthood workers agreeing to sell fetal tissue.

Vicki Cowart, the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, cited the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting.

“Words have an impact. You can’t implicitly condone violence without consequence,” Cowart said.  “Nowhere is that more clear than in Colorado, where we have seen how dangerous a campaign of lies and incendiary rhetoric can be. But we will never back down from caring for our patients who rely on and trust us every day.”

She added that they are rebuilding the clinic in Colorado Springs.

“These anti-abortion extremists broke the law in order to spread lies and demonize Planned Parenthood and the millions of patients who rely on our health centers for care,” Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said. “As a result providers have faced death threats, personal attacks, harassment, and more. David Daleiden and his co-conspirators spent three years building a vast criminal conspiracy, and another eight months spreading malicious lies, and we are holding them accountable.”

The lawsuit claims that CMP violated the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organization Act—known as the RICO Act—as well as engaging in wire fraud, mail fraud, invasion of privacy, illegal secret recording and trespassing.

The videos came from CMP, an organization that sought to investigate Planned Parenthood over potential sale of fetal tissue. Federal law does not allow the sale of fetal tissue, however it allows organizations that donate fetal tissue for research purposes to recoup costs for transportation.

Anti-abortion activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt are facing felony charges in Texas because of the videos. The Harris County grand jury indictment came after the same grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing; investigations in other states also exonerated Planned Parenthood.

Several states cut funding for Planned Parenthood in the wake of the videos. Congressional Republicans have set up a number of investigations because of the video.

Daleiden is the president of CMP and appeared in the videos under the alias Robert Sarkis. He said he was an employee of Biomax, a fictitious biomedical research company he created for the attempted sting. Merritt also appeared in the videos.

The two are defendants along with four other individuals.

The National Abortion Federation also sued CMP over the videos in 2015, winning a temporary restraining order against releasing additional videos.

A court also ruled that CMP had to turn over the names of those who received confidential information from NAF; the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case on appeal.