On Friday, a federal judge said that a series of secretly recorded videos released back in July by an anti-abortion group do not show any criminal activity by Planned Parenthood clinics. The judge went on to say that the videos may put Planned Parenthood doctors and providers at risk, citing the shooting in Colorado last month.
U.S. District Judge William Orrick made his statement during a hearing to decide whether the remaining secretly recorded videos should be released. Although Orrick did not issue a ruling, he said that the videos did not depict any criminal wrongdoing. A restraining order he issued earlier, which temporarily blocks the release of the videos, is still in effect.
The Center for Medical Progress released four of the recordings in July. The group claims that the videos show Planned Parenthood employees discussing selling the body parts of fetuses, which is illegal. Planned Parenthood says that the doctors and employees were processing tissue donated by women who have had abortions. Under current law, Planned Parenthood can be reimbursed for the costs of donating the tissue.
Planned Parenthood says that the recordings violated an agreement between the two groups. Furthermore, the health clinic fears that additional leaks will instigate more violence against their patients and employees.
Judge Orrick agreed with the clinic’s fears, specifically pointing to suspected arsons at provider centers and the Colorado Springs shooting at a Planned Parenthood in November. Colorado shooter Robert Dear reportedly said “no more baby parts” while being taken into custody — which was in direct reference to the CFMP’s videos. At his first hearing in December, Dear professed his guilt and called himself “a warrior for babies.”
Catherine Short, a lawyer for the Center for Medical Progress, said that there was no evidence that Dear was motivated by the videos. Still, the release of the videos has had political implications, directly fueling Congressional talks to defund Planned Parenthood. Short argued that the videos contain information that interests the public and should be released regardless.
Linda Shostak, a lawyer for the National Abortion Federation, said that the recordings violated the confidentiality agreement between the two groups. Shostak says that the recordings should not be released because the Center for Medical Progress failed to get consent from the doctors that were being recorded.
“Here clearly, our expectation was that we were creating a safe place for our people to dialogue and learn and address problems,” said Shostak.
Although Shostak agreed evidence of a crime would void the confidentiality agreement, the recordings did not contain any evidence of criminal action.
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