By SUDHIN THANAWALA
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Abortion rights advocates locked in a public relations battle with abortion opponents over videos of Planned Parenthood leaders discussing the use of aborted fetuses got some good news from two courts in California.
A federal judge in San Francisco on Friday blocked the release of any recordings made at meetings of an abortion providers’ association by the anti-abortion group the Center for Medical Progress.
Earlier in the week, a Los Angeles County judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the center from releasing any video of leaders of StemExpress, a California company that provides fetal tissue to researchers.
In one of the videos the group previously released, a woman identified as a former StemExpress phlebotomist describes drawing blood and dissecting dead fetuses.
The videos have ignited passions on both sides of the abortion debate and sparked a potential showdown in Congress, where Republicans are increasingly focused on cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood.
On Friday, Judge William Orrick in San Francisco issued a temporary restraining order against the center that had been requested hours earlier by the National Abortion Federation.
Orrick said absent a temporary restraining order, the federation would likely suffer irreparable injury “in the form of harassment, intimidation, violence, invasion of privacy, and injury to reputation.”
The National Abortion Federation sued in federal court, alleging that the Center for Medical Progress infiltrated its meetings and recorded its members. The group said release of any audio or video would put members in danger.
David Daleiden, a leader of the Center for Medical Progress who is also named in the suit, said in a statement that Planned Parenthood and its allies were trying to silence the group and suppress investigative journalism.
The center has released several secretly recorded videos that have riled anti-abortion activists, including one Thursday of a Planned Parenthood doctor in Colorado. It has accused Planned Parenthood of selling fetal tissue for profit, which is illegal.
The undercover video released Thursday shows Dr. Savita Ginde, vice president of Denver-based Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, discussing prices of aborted fetal remains, the center says. Planned Parenthood issued a statement calling the video “misleading and deceptively edited.”
Planned Parenthood says it abides by a law that allows providers to be reimbursed for the costs of processing tissue donated by women who have had abortions.
In Friday’s lawsuit, the National Abortion Federation alleges that the center created a fake company to get into the federation’s annual meetings in 2014 and 2015 and then recorded its members with the goal of smearing abortion-rights supporters.
John Nockleby, a professor at Loyola Law School, said California privacy law is stricter than some other states. To record a confidential communication in California, all parties participating in it must agree to the recording.
The National Abortion Federation “made it clear both in its written documents and also all kinds of other releases how important it was that everything about the meeting be confidential,” he said.