Court Shuts Down Abortion Group’s Attempt to Stop Release of More Planned Parenthood Videos

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 17, 2015   |   6:44PM   |   Washington, DC

A federal appeals court has shut down the attempt by a pro-abortion group to stop the release of more videos exposing the Planned Parenthood abortion business. Last month a federal judge in California  blocked the release of additional videos showing the abortion industry selling the body parts of aborted babies for research. The order applies only to a trade group representing independent abortion businesses not affiliated with Planned Parenthood.

While the videos have focused on the Planned Parenthood abortion business and the biotech firm StemExpress, which buys and resells aborted baby body parts from the abortion giant, the National Abortion Federation is concerned about footage from events it has sponsored for abortion clinics across the country.

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NAF said it “filed today in federal court seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction which would prohibit the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), David Daleiden, and others from releasing recordings and materials they illegally obtained at NAF’s educational meetings.”

Today, a federal appeals court stopped NAF’s bid to block further videos. As Politico reports:

A federal appeals court has stepped into the legal fray over undercover videos that anti-abortion groups say demonstrate the sale of aborted fetuses.

On July 31, U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick issued a temporary restraining order barring the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress from releasing videos of National Abortion Federation meetings and from identifying any federation members by name. He’s extended the order several times, despite requests from CMP to lift it.

On Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit granted the anti-abortion video maker’s request to block Orrick from converting the temporary restraining order into a longer-term preliminary injunction. The three-judge 9th Circuit panel also effectively halted the National Abortion Federation’s efforts to seek information from the Center for Medical Progress or others involved with the undercover videos which have prompted calls for the defunding of abortion and women’s health services provider Planned Parenthood.

The stay granted Thursday by 9th Circuit Judges Stephen Reinhardt, Wallace Tashima and Johnnie Rawlinson (and posted here) does not lift the current restraining order against CMP, but it does signal the appeals judges’ concern about Orrick’s rulings in the case. The appeals court order comes a day after the 9th Circuit panel said CMP’s unusual filing (posted here) “warrants an answer.” The NAF filed a brief Wednesday (posted here) urging the 9th Circuit not to step in.

While the appeals court judges offered no rationale for the stay, some First Amendment advocates have raised concern about the legal implications of Orrick’s ruling barring release of the videos. While the National Abortion Federation contends CMP’s personnel violated confidentiality agreements they signed at NAF events, free speech promoters have offered support for CMP’s arguments that Orrick’s order amounts to a “prior restraint” that should not be issued in such circumstances.

The pro-life Life Legal Defense Foundation, which is helping represent CMP, told that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has stayed discovery and ordered attorneys for the National Abortion Federation to respond to questions of importance raised in the associated petition for mandamus. NAF’s attorneys have until Friday, September 18, to file a response.

Also on Friday, the federal trial court will consider whether the restraining order it issued last month prohibits Daleiden, who has gathered voluminous video and documentary evidence concerning the abortion industry’s grisly trade in baby body parts, will be restrained from revealing his findings to law enforcement.

The discovery issues turn on whether NAF is entitled to obtain documents, recordings, and testimony from CMP and its investigators, or whether, as CMP and Daleiden contend, the lawsuit is a SLAPP action in which discovery is prohibited.

“SLAPP” stands for Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation. The use of SLAPP suits against citizens voicing views opposed by powerful corporations has become such a problem that many states, including California, have passed statutes curbing such actions.

The 9th Circuit’s order indicates that the higher court takes very seriously the objections raised by Life Legal and its allies to Judge Orrick’s fast-track rulings in favor of the NAF.

Said Life Legal’s Katie Short, prominent in a team of attorneys representing pro-lifers in this matter: “David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress are exercising their First Amendment rights in order to expose the unconscionable practices of Planned Parenthood and other abortionists. Despite howls of derision from abortion apologists, CMP’s video evidence has proven very effective in showing the public what the abortion industry is really all about. If these weren’t such a threat to the status quo, Planned Parenthood allies such as the National Abortion Federation would not be pulling out all the stops to silence them.”

“It is especially revealing that the NAF is trying to stop David Daleiden and the CMP from speaking to law enforcement. If NAF and Planned Parenthood are as innocent of wrongdoing as they claim to be, why are they so desperate to keep witnesses from talking to investigators?” she told LifeNews.

The restraining order preventing the release of additional videos related to NAF was not surprising given that Judge Orrick is an Obama donor and supporter. As Breitbart News reports:

A report by Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist revealed Public Citizen data showing Orrick raised at least $200,000 to the president’s campaign. Additionally, the judge donated $30,800 to committees supporting Obama.

As Hemingway writes:

Even though the National Abortion Federation filed its claim only hours before, Orrick quickly decided in their favor that the abortionists they represent would, ironically, be “likely to suffer irreparable injury, absent an ex parte temporary restraining order, in the form of harassment, intimidation, violence, invasion of privacy, and injury to reputation, and the requested relief is in the public interest.”