A federal judge in San Francisco ruled Tuesday that the pro-life Center for Medical Progress may comply with a congressional subpoena for undercover video footage related to its Planned Parenthood investigation despite a temporary restraining order.
U.S. District Court Judge William H. Orrick III said he would allow the center to honor the subpoena issued by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, overriding the objections of the National Abortion Federation, which requested the restraining order.
At the same time, Judge Orrick ordered the center’s executive director, David Daleiden, to provide the same unedited video footage, documents and communications provided to Congress to the federation, which has sued the center over videos made by its undercover investigators at NAF annual meetings.
“I issued the [temporary restraining order] because defendants, after entering into nondisclosure agreements with NAF under false pretenses, clearly breached the agreements not to disclose information learned at NAF’s annual meetings,” Judge Orrick said in his order.
He said he remains “concerned about the threat of irreparable injury to the privacy rights of NAF’s members,” but he concluded that “disclosure to a congressional committee is not ‘public disclosure.’”
The judge also ordered the center “not to provide any footage, documents or communications that have not been specifically requested by the subpoena.”
Mr. Daleiden said in a statement that his organization would comply with the subpoena.
“CMP is sending the NAF footage, which was previously under gag order by the federal court, to Congress,” Mr. Daleiden said.
“We are confident this prima facie evidence of Planned Parenthood’s criminal conspiracy to profit off of baby body parts will aid the congressional committee’s investigation and bring Planned Parenthood’s criminal enterprise to justice,” he said.
The center has released 10 undercover videos since July on the procurement of fetal tissue from abortions by Planned Parenthood clinics, prompting congressional investigations and calls for federal defunding of the organization.
The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled Thursday to hold its second hearing in its investigation into Planned Parenthood’s “abortion procedures and medical ethics.”
Vicki Saporta, NAF president and CEO, said Tuesday that her concerns about the release of the 500 hours of unedited video center on safety.
“We have never taken the position that Daleiden and the other Defendants in our case should be barred from providing compelled responses to lawful subpoenas,” Ms. Saporta said in a statement. “Our focus has always been and continues to be the safety and security of our members. We urge Congress to be mindful of the security risks faced by abortion providers, and the need for confidentiality as they conduct their investigation.”
Since the center began releasing videos, “there has been an unprecedented escalation in hate speech and threats against abortion providers,” the NAF statement said.
Undercover investigators from the center attended the NAF 2015 annual meeting in Baltimore and 2014 meeting in San Francisco, posing as officials from the fake company Biomax and using phony California driver’s licenses, according to the lawsuit filed by the NAF.
The CMP investigators also signed nondisclosure statements agreeing not to make audio or video recordings of the meetings or release information without the NAF’s consent, the lawsuit said.
Mr. Chaffetz said in a Sept. 15 statement that the subpoena is a “demand for transparency.”
“The action of the court will not thwart or impede Congress’ constitutional duty and right to conduct effective oversight,” he said.