- Associated Press - Friday, August 21, 2015

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Videos a pro-life group secretly recorded with officials at a California company that procures fetal tissue for research could be released as soon as Friday if a judge sticks by her preliminary ruling.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joanne O’Donnell said last week that she probably will not issue a preliminary injunction blocking the Center for Medical Progress from releasing videos it recorded with StemExpress officials in a restaurant earlier this year.

StemExpress had a won a temporary restraining order last month, but Judge O’Donnell said the First Amendment supports the release of the videos, even if the company believes they are “false, defamatory” or violate their privacy rights.

The case arose as the Center for Medical Progress released videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing their practices in harvesting and distributing aborted fetal organs for research.

Abortion opponents — who want Planned Parenthood defunded and investigated, and are planning to demonstrate outside more than 300 Planned Parenthood clinics Saturday — say the videos show Planned Parenthood is illegally harvesting and selling the organs.

Planned Parenthood officials insist their clinics strictly follow federal and state laws regarding donation of human tissue, and the videos are deceptively edited to put them in a bad light.

StemExpress, based in Placerville, Calif., which until recently procured fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood clinics, realized its chief executive and others had been secretly recorded by the pro-life group, and filed suit to block release of one or more videos.

The company claimed the videos were illegally obtained because officials weren’t notified they were being recorded and their right to privacy was violated.

StemExpress Chief Executive Officer Catherine Dyer said the company’s connection to Planned Parenthood has led to threats and forced her to hire a security team.

Releasing the videos would draw the biotech company and Ms. Dyer “deeper into the vortex of public animosity stirred up by CMP’s crusade to brand everyone associated with Planned Parenthood as evil criminals,” the company said in court papers.

A lawyer for the Center for Medical Progress will ask that the temporary restraining order be lifted so the public can see the videos.

Attorney Charles LiMandri said Ms. Dyer and others had no expectation of privacy in a public restaurant, and that there was no confidentiality agreement beforehand.

Mr. LiMandri also defended the covert recordings, which have sparked numerous federal and state investigations into the little-known practice of harvesting and distributing fetal tissue donated for research.

“This is the only way to get the information,” Mr. LiMandri said. “You don’t go in a den of thieves dressed like a cop.”

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