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Health & Science

Planned Parenthood Sues Anti-Abortion Group For Undercover Tactics

The Planned Parenthood Federation of American, along with seven of its California-based affiliates, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday in San Francisco over the undercover operation by the Center for Medical Progress.



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The D.C.-based national umbrella group for Planned Parenthood filed the lawsuit, along with seven affiliates in California.

The suit accuses six individual activists, and the two groups they operated, of conspiracy and fraud for creating a fake bioscience company and illegally videotaping at Planned Parenthood conferences and clinics.

Last summer, the California nonprofit known as the Center for Medical Progress began releasing the series of edited, secretly-recorded videos. The videos focus on Planned Parenthood staffers and clinics that facilitate the donation of fetal tissue to scientific researchers.

"We've spent months piecing together the web of deceit," said Kathy Kneer, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, a statewide public policy office.

The videos, which allege Planned Parenthood profited off the fetal tissue, were doctored, and Planned Parenthood did nothing wrong, Kneer said.

"No investigation by anyone – our own, various states' or even Congress – has found any wrongdoing. We are filing this lawsuit to hold accountable the people behind this reckless and malicious smear campaign that was designed only to spread lies about Planned Parenthood," Kneer added.

The Houston-based affiliate, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, is not part of the lawsuit. But it was targeted in the scheme last April, according to the lawsuit.

"They did that here in Houston," said Rochelle Tafolla, a spokeswoman. "They came into our building under false pretenses, with false identification, and they did it in multiple places. And that's (why) this lawsuit is going after them. It's holding them accountable for the fraud they engaged in, and they will be exposed."

The Houston clinic hasn't collected fetal tissue for research since 2011. But the video clips led to four state-level investigations – all still ongoing – and fights over state funding of Planned Parenthood. The Harris County District Attorney also opened an investigation.

Tafolla said her affiliate supports the lawsuit, and it sends a clear message that Planned Parenthood will fight back.

"We aren't denying people their right to their beliefs, whether it's regarding abortion or women having access to birth control. What we're saying is you cannot break the law."

The lawsuit asks for unspecified monetary damages, and cites an increase in threats and violence, including the shooting in November at a Colorado Planned Parenthood.

"The impact has been enormous," Tafolla said. "The fraud they've engaged in has created a poisonous environment. They've fueled many and multiple political attacks against access to reproductive healthcare and have actually fed acts of violence we've seen in our health centers."

The Center for Medical Progress said in a statement that its activities constituted "First Amendment investigative journalism" and called the lawsuit "frivolous.”