The Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed a civil lawsuit (PDF) in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Thursday against the organization that taped and published videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing procurement of and compensation for fetal tissue.
The suit claims that the Center for Medical Progress and those who created the group used false identification to get into conferences and medical centers and then illegally taped people without their permission, thereby also violating confidentiality agreements they had signed.
Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called the videos the culmination of a three-year smear campaign "built on fraud and a web of lies." She said it's time for Planned Parenthood to go on the offensive.
“Not a single Planned Parenthood staff member went along with their entrapment,” she said during a conference call with reporters.
In a statement, the Center for Medical Progress called the lawsuit frivolous. “This last-ditch move of desperation is going to expose all of the sordid dealings of the California Planned Parenthood affiliates to the light of the legal system and the public will see them for the corrupt abortion and baby body parts profiteers that they really are,” they wrote.
The videos, released last summer, led to several congressional investigations and efforts to cease federal funding to Planned Parenthood, including most recently as part of a bill repealing that Affordable Care Act that President Barack Obama promptly vetoed.
After the videos were published, Planned Parenthood centers received security threats at nine times above average levels. Some staff who received death threats were forced to move or go into hiding. Some of the people behind the videos have a history of calling for the murder of abortion doctors, Planned Parenthood said.
In November, a gunman killed three people and wounded nine others at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo. That attacked followed arson attempts at other clinics.
Planned Parenthood officials said the videos were deceptively edited and have maintained they have never sold or made a profit from fetal tissue. Two of the organization's 700 centers provided the tissue to researchers and one of them received compensation, the agency said.
Beth Parker, chief legal counsel for the Planned Parenthood Association of California, said many patients ask to donate fetal tissue because research using it has led to medical breakthroughs such as vaccines and Alzheimer's disease treatments. The selling of fetal organs and tissue is already illegal under federal law, just as it is illegal to sell human organs and tissue. But individuals can donate fetal tissue.
Parker said several “anti-abortion extremists” created the Center for Medical Progress and the fake fetal tissue procurement company Biomax. They then used false identities to attend two National Abortion Federation conferences in San Francisco and Baltimore. They taped conference participants without their knowledge despite signing confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements as a requirement for attendance.
They aggressively pursued relationships with Planned Parenthood medical directors across the country and also used fake identities to get into medical facilities and private conferences. They sent fake contracts to Planned Parenthood employees but none signed them or agreed to their contents, she said.
Amy Bomse, a partner at Arnold and Porter, which is representing Planned Parenthood, said the lawsuit alleges violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act as well as invasion of privacy and secret taping claims. It also alleges breach of contract.
Parker said no specific dollar amount is being sought but Planned Parenthood is pursuing compensatory, punitive and statutory damages.