By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) – An anti-abortion group that released videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood staff discussing the illegal sale of aborted fetal tissue has been sued by a group of abortion providers claiming that the campaign violates its members’ privacy and threatens their safety.
In a complaint filed on Friday in San Francisco federal court, the National Abortion Federation, a nonprofit representing abortion providers, accused the Center for Medical Progress and its founder David Daleiden of violating federal racketeering law through their pro-life campaign.
The lawsuit seeks a court order halting further releases of videos containing names, addresses and other private information about NAF members, including information drawn from the group’s meetings. It also seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
“The safety and security of our members is our top priority,” NAF President Vicki Saporta said in a statement. “That security has been compromised.”
Neither the Center for Medical Progress nor Daleiden was immediately available for comment.
The videos’ release prompted calls in Congress to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, and the Republican-led Senate may vote on such a bill in August.
It is unlikely that Congress could override a potential White House veto.
The NAF lawsuit targeted what it called the Center for Medical Progress’ release in July of four “misleading” and “heavily edited” videos purporting to show discussions about the alleged improper fetal tissue transactions.
It said the Irvine, California-based group did this to advance its goal of ending safe access to abortions, and stopping legal fetal tissue donations that can help save lives.
Daleiden has said more video releases are planned.
The lawsuit also accused Daleiden of creating the sham Biomax Procurement Services, which held itself out as a legitimate fetal tissue procurement company, in 2013 to trick abortion providers and gain access to NAF meetings.
Polls show that a majority of Americans want abortion to remain legal at least under some circumstances.
The U.S. Supreme Court is closely divided on the issue, and is expected to soon have multiple vacancies. Four current justices will be in their late 70s or early 80s when the next president takes office in 2017.
The case is National Abortion Federation v Center for Medical Progress et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 15-03522.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum)
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