Planned Parenthood on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit against the people behind the ongoing, widely discredited video smear campaign that they say has "created a poisonous environment that fuels political attacks on access to reproductive health care and feeds threats against our health centers."
The civil suit, filed in San Francisco, charges that the defendants—including the shadowy anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress; its president and secretary David Daleiden and Troy Newman; and Biomax Procurement Services, LLC, the fake firm created by anti-abortion extremists for the smear campaign—engaged in a "complex criminal enterprise to defraud Planned Parenthood and prevent the health care organization from providing preventive and reproductive health services to millions of women and men," according to a press statement from the organization.
"The people behind this fraud lied and broke the law in order to spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood."
—Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood Federation of America
It cites violations of the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO Act) and says defendants engaged in wire fraud, mail fraud, invasion of privacy, illegal secret recording, and trespassing.
"The people behind this fraud lied and broke the law in order to spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood," said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "This lawsuit exposes the elaborate, illegal conspiracy designed to block women's access to safe and legal abortion, and we filed the case to hold them accountable."
The video campaign, which launched last summer, involved the use of hidden cameras and deceptively edited interviews to suggest that Planned Parenthood was involved in the illegal selling of human tissue obtained while performing late-term abortions.
The ensuing fallout included Congressional and state-level votes to defund Planned Parenthood and enact additional abortion restrictions. Planned Parenthood clinics also reported a nine-fold increase in threats and criminal activities against their health centers. In fact, the alleged shooter in November's deadly attack at a Colorado Springs clinic, 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear, allegedly told police "no more baby parts" as he was taken into custody—an apparent reference to the slanderous videos.
"We're going on the offensive to expose this fraud for what it is and hold the people behind it accountable—in order to prevent further harassment of our patients and staff and protect access to the preventive and reproductive health care Planned Parenthood provides to millions of people each year," said Kathy Kneer, CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California.
"We're going on the offensive to expose this fraud for what it is and hold the people behind it accountable."
—Kathy Kneer, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California
In a statement supporting the legal action, National Abortion Federation (NAF) president and CEO Vicki Saporta added: "Nothing is more important than the safety and security of our members and taking these criminals to task for their illegal activities."
NAF, too, filed a lawsuit against the Center for Medical Progress last July, through which the group successfully sought and obtained a temporary restraining order in order to protect the safety and security of its members, and to prevent the defendants from releasing confidential information they illegally obtained at NAF's annual meetings.
"We are delighted Planned Parenthood is joining the legal fight NAF began last July against extremists whose conspiracy has placed NAF's members in harm's way, merely for working to ensure the constitutionally-guaranteed right of women in this country to make their own reproductive choices," said the group's outside litigation counsel, Morrison & Foerster's Derek Foran.
Indeed, Laguens said, "Daleiden and his co-conspirators' goal in releasing these grossly misleading videos was to disrupt Planned Parenthood’s operations to prevent millions of women and men from getting the care we provide. But their ultimate goal is to make all abortion illegal and they will stop at nothing—including breaking the law and lying—to pursue their misguided and deeply unpopular agenda."