LOS ANGELES — A Chicago-based law firm known for supporting pro-life causes will defend the Center for Medical Progress in a federal racketeering lawsuit filed Jan. 14 by Planned Parenthood against the center.
Last year, the Irvine-based center released undercover videos alleging Planned Parenthood affiliate officials committed improprieties regarding fetal tissue and organs.
Thomas More Society, a nonprofit public interest law firm, said Jan. 20 that Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit against the center’s founder, David Daleiden, and his fellow undercover investigators is tied to the National Abortion Federation’s existing attempts “to shut down free speech and to cover up evidence of the abortion industry’s crimes in aborted baby parts trafficking.”
“The true aim of these lawsuits brought by Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation … is not justice, but rather the obstruction of justice,” said Tom Brejcha, Thomas More Society president and chief counsel.
The National Abortion Federation last August filed suit against the center and received a temporary restraining order against its release of additional videos.
Last year, the Center for Medical Progress released videos in which its reporters — armed with video cameras — posed as representatives of a mythical fetal tissue procurement firm who met at public restaurants with the doctors. Over lunch, the center’s reporters pretended to solicit fetal tissue from the doctors, who discussed possible price points of various body organs gleaned from abortions.
The National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act of 1993 expressly forbids the sale of such tissue, though it notes that “research on the transplantation of human fetal tissue for therapeutic purposes,” including that obtained from “spontaneous or induced” abortions, is legal.
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, released an official video response at the time saying that “allegations that Planned Parenthood profits in any way from tissue donation is not true.”
In its civil lawsuit filed in San Francisco, Planned Parenthood charges that the defendants — including Daleiden — “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 statement accompanying the lawsuit.
The suit charges that the center, its leaders and co-conspirators engaged in “illegal conduct that includes violating the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO Act) and engaging in wire fraud, mail fraud, invasion of privacy, illegal secret recording and trespassing.”
“The express aim of the enterprise,” the complaint stated, “was to demonize Planned Parenthood, harass and intimidate its dedicated staff, and interrupt its operations, all with the ultimate goal of interfering with women’s access to legal abortion.”
This action, the complaint said, “is brought to expose the falsity and illegality of defendants’ methods and to recover damages for the ongoing harm to Planned Parenthood emanating from the video smear campaign.”
The National Abortion Federation issued a statement Jan. 16 in support of Planned Parenthood’s suit.
“These perpetrators must be held accountable for the ways in which they committed fraud and put our members’ safety at risk,” said Vicki Saporta, the federation’s president and CEO.
In a Jan. 14 statement, the Center for Medical Progress called Planned Parenthood’s filing “a frivolous lawsuit in retaliation for CMP’s First Amendment investigative journalism that has done nothing more than tell the truth about Planned Parenthood’s lawless operations.”
“Planned Parenthood is under investigation by the United States Congress and multiple law enforcement agencies, while their business is drying up and the public is turning against their barbaric abortion for baby parts trade,” the center said.
Added Brejcha: “Planned Parenthood and NAF are working to shut down Daleiden’s investigation of the abortion groups’ involvement in baby parts trafficking. But equally as any other investigative journalist working for ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, or your local print or electronic media outlet may regularly resort to undercover journalism tactics to ferret out hidden crime, so too David Daleiden should have the right to penetrate the criminal underworld of America’s abortion providers and report all the evidence he has uncovered of criminal wrongdoing to law enforcement and to members of the public.”
Thomas More Society describes itself as “dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. The Society fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way up to the United States Supreme Court.”
“Thomas More Society remains committed to defending Daleiden against the abortion industry’s lawsuits aimed at obstructing truth and justice,” said Brejcha, “just as we defended and won the NOW v. Scheidler ‘RICO’ case after 28 years and three trips to the U.S. Supreme Court. The rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press hang in the balance and must be protected.”
In Houston, a grand jury that was investigating whether a local Planned Parenthood clinic had sold fetal organs cleared the clinic Jan. 25, according to prosecutors in Harris County.
Instead, the grand jury indicted Daleiden and his colleague Sandra Merritt on second-degree felony charges of tampering with a government record — they presented fake driver’s licenses as ID in the course of filming the videos.
The grand jury also charged Daleiden with a misdemeanor regarding the sale of human organs because when he was posing an executive of a firm engaged in the collection and selling of fetal organs to researchers he offered to buy tissue.
“We respect the processes of the Harris County (Texas) district attorney, and note that buying fetal tissue requires a seller as well,” Daleiden said in a statement. “Planned Parenthood still cannot deny the admissions from their leadership about fetal organ sales captured on video for all the world to see.”