For several weeks, one of the foremost providers of women's reproductive and sexual health care in the country has been in the crosshairs of a very determined conservative political organization — I'm talking about Planned Parenthood, and the so-called Center for Medical Progress (CMP), which has been releasing undercover videos aimed at damaging Planned Parenthood's reputation. On Wednesday, despite reports of an order by a federal judge, CMP did it again. It raises a predictable question: Why didn't a restraining order prevent another Planned Parenthood video from being released?
Luckily, there's a fairly simple explanation. So far, five videos in total have been released by the CMP, all of them driving at the same core claim — that Planned Parenthood is selling aborted fetal tissue, and thus violating federal law. In reality, the videos have failed to demonstrate any such thing, just entirely legal reimbursements for transportation and storage costs affiliated with tissue donation.
On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood's executive vice president's Dawn Laguens released a statement:
The latest tape has at least 20 substantial and unexplained edits. Previous tapes released by this extremist group were heavily edited in order to distort what the people on the tapes actually said. These videos are intended to shock and deceive the public. For example, one video was edited to make it look like a doctor said she would "sell" fetal tissue for a profit — when in fact, she said the exact opposite, 10 separate times, and nearly all instances were edited out of the tape.
But the CMP's efforts haven't solely targeted Planned Parenthood, and that's where the restraining orders come in — over the past couple of weeks, they've been hit with two restraining orders, prohibiting them from releasing footage gathered at meetings of the National Abortion Federation (NAF), or footage of employees of StemExpress, a company that works with Planned Parenthood in fetal tissue donation.
That's the answer, basically. While the restraining orders drew big headlines, relating as they did to the CMP's undercover efforts against Planned Parenthood, they didn't actually prohibit the group from releasing more of these kinds of videos — the ones with an unwitting representative of Planned Parenthood sitting across from a person pretending to be involved with fetal tissue donation.
The narrowness of the orders also means that the CMP could potentially edit their way around it — so long as they don't show any NAF meeting footage, or any StemExpress employees, they're apparently still a-OK, for the time being at least.
David Daleiden, the highly controversial public face of the CMP, decried the restraining order at the time it was issued, referring to the NAF as a "criminal organization," according to The Christian Science Monitor. But clearly he and his group haven't been deterred by the blocking of those videos, and there may be more to come. Last week, the CMP claimed that eight to 10 more videos would be coming, although how much of their footage falls under the restraining order isn't yet clear.