Planned Parenthood announced Thursday that it had filed a federal lawsuit against the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), an anti-abortion organization that orchestrated a widely discredited video campaign this past summer alleging that Planned Parenthood sells fetal tissue for profit.
“This lawsuit exposes the elaborate, illegal conspiracy designed to block women’s access to safe and legal abortion, and we filed the case to hold [CMP] accountable,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
The lawsuit charges that the CMP, its leaders and multiple co-conspirators engaged in illegal conduct that includes violating the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO Act) and engaging in wire fraud, mail fraud, invasion of privacy, illegal secret recording and trespassing.
This is the 10th smear campaign in 15 years aimed at damaging Planned Parenthood’s reputation as a healthcare provider.
According to a statement from Planned Parenthood, the organization has never sold fetal tissue or facilitated fetal tissue donation for profit. In two states, patients are offered the choice to donate fetal tissue for medical research on vaccines and genetic diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
To date, officials in 10 states have concluded investigations into claims that Planned Parenthood profited from fetal tissue donation, and each one has cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing. Another eight states have declined to even investigate, citing a lack of any evidence to suggest wrongdoing, according to Planned Parenthood.
The National Abortion Federation investigated rates of anti-abortion violence following the release of CMP’s videos and found that abortion providers were facing increased levels of threats. But rates were already high: Data from the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Clinic Violence Survey shows that nearly 52 percent of clinics reported experiencing severe threats and harassment in 2014, compared to just 24 percent in 2010.
Kathy Kneer, CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said in a statement,
CMP’s reckless and dangerous actions have created a poisonous environment that fuels political attacks on access to reproductive health care and feeds threats against our health centers. We’re going on the offensive to expose this fraud for what it is and hold the people behind it accountable.
Late last year, the Feminist Majority Foundation (publisher of Ms.) launched a campaign demanding that federal investigations of Planned Parenthood and other reproductive healthcare providers be dropped and that the attention instead be directed towards Troy Newman, president of anti-abortion group Operation Rescue and an officer of the CMP who played a key role in producing the now-debunked videos (and is named in the Planned Parenthood lawsuit). FMF is asking the the House Select Investigative Panel of the Energy and Commerce Committee to either redirect its focus to investigating violence against abortion providers, or disband.
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