The plan concocted by the anti-abortion group known as the “Center For Medical Progress” (CMP) was apparently to secretly film Planned Parenthood officials, and catch them in wrongdoing. Not only has that plan largely backfired, the group, headed by anti-abortion activist David Daleiden, may have created a host of legal problems for itself.
Buzzfeed reports that legal experts are saying that by filming Planned Parenthood employees without their knowledge or consent, CMP broke a number of laws.
Last week, an independent analysis of the videos that was commissioned by Planned Parenthood determined that the videos had been deceptively edited to make Planned Parenthood look as bad as possible. The analysis also found that transcripts provided by CMP do not match the dialog in the videos, with words literally being put in people’s mouths in some instances. Fusion GPS, the company that conducted the analysis, concluded that the videos and the accompanying transcripts are worthless as evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Planned Parenthood. But that may be the least of CMP’s problems.
California, where several of the videos were recorded, has strict laws about recording people without their consent. A July 29 press release issued by the biomedical company StemExpress announced that they had been granted a temporary restraining order against CMP for allegedly violating those laws.
On July 28, 2015, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge issued a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) prohibiting the Center for Medical Progress (“CMP”) and David Daleiden from releasing any illegally and secretly recorded videos of StemExpress employees and awarding other relief to our company.
On July 31, the National Abortion Federation filed suit in federal court against CMP and Daleiden. The complaint alleges that Daleiden and CMP engaged in:
…an admitted, outrageous conspiracy to defraud, carried out by extremist anti-abortion activists against NAF and its constituent members, and perpetrated for the purpose of intimidating and harassing providers of abortion care services to women, and to end access to reproductive health services in America.
In addition to the legal problems CMP members created for themselves when they secretly recorded Planned Parenthood employees, there may be other violations of the law as well. The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics In Washington (CREW) has filed a complaint with the IRS, asking that agency to investigate whether CMP lied about its planned activities when it applied for tax-exempt status.
This should serve as a warning to any group that thinks it can produce “gotcha” recordings in order to influence public opinion or political decisions. Conservative hitman James O’Keefe, who is mainly known for the secret videos that brought about the end of the community action group ACORN has also found himself in legal trouble over his activities.
The biggest concern about this sort of sting operation is that by the time the group responsible is held legally accountable, the damage has already been done. Republicans, many of whom have been trying to defund Planned Parenthood for some time, have been given fresh ammo by the videos. They will have little concern over how the videos were obtained, or whether they paint an accurate picture of what took place. With the GOP in charge of congress, Planned Parenthood could find itself out of business before the first case against CMP ever makes it to court.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons