Is this a blow for Center for Medical Progress, or a short toss into a briar patch? Last week, a federal judge in San Francisco placed a temporary restraining order on CMP that enjoined it from releasing any more of its videos, specifically those relating to the National Abortion Federation, after NAF officials claimed that the videos could make them unsafe. Judge William Orrick extended the TRO last night to August 27th, when a hearing will take place on the suit that seeks to lock up the videos for good:
U.S. District Judge William Orrick sided with claims by the National Abortion Federation and its members that they would suffer harassment, intimidation and even violence if the Center for Medical Progress was permitted to circulate the material. …
Orrick initially issued an emergency restraining order on Friday prohibiting the center from releasing recordings, names, addresses or dates gathered at the meetings.
Following a brief hearing on Monday, the judge agreed to keep the temporary order in place until an Aug. 27 hearing on the federation’s request for an injunction permanently disallowing release of the information.
The TRO apparently applies only to video and audio captured by CMP with NAF officials, presumably at a meeting where their investigators posed as tissue brokers. Orrick stated in his extension that the CMP team signed non-disclosure agreements prior to entering the meeting, a strange practice that I have never experienced in many years of attending industrial conferences. Why does the NAF need to get attendees to sign NDAs as a prerequisite to attend their meetings? Why, it sounds as if they might have something to hide, no?
If that’s the limit of the TRO, though, CMP could simply recut its videos to exclude those conversations. That might put a crimp in their plans, but it wouldn’t have any impact on videos that deal strictly with Planned Parenthood execs or clinics. CMP could just leave those video clips for last, depending on what happens in Orrick’s courtroom on August 27th — or more likely, what will happen when this attempt at prior restraint gets a look from an appellate court, especially given Orrick’s political connections and interests.
For now, though, the TRO might suit CMP’s purposes. With Congress in recess, it makes less sense to keep up the pace of video releases now. They will want to wait until lawmakers return in September to stoke political pressure to act against Planned Parenthood. All this does is give them the breathing space necessary to reset their schedules for maximum political impact.
Hugh Hewitt interviewed Donald Trump last night and asked whether Republicans should force Barack Obama to shut down the government to protect Planned Parenthood’s funding. Trump, who called the revelations of the undercover videos “disgusting,” said, “I think you have to do it in this case”:
HH: The word is that the Democrats will filibuster and the president will veto — that’s the only way to get rid of Planned Parenthood money for selling off baby parts is to shut the government down in September. Would you support that?
DT: Well I can tell you this. I would and I was also in support if the Republicans stuck together you could have done it with Obamacare also, but the Republicans decided not to stick together and they left a few people out there like Ted Cruz. You know, they left a lot of the people who really went in and wanted to do the job and you know what? If they had stuck together they wold have won that battle. I think you have to in this case also, yes.
Finally, one has to wonder whether media outlets will start filing amicus briefs with Judge Orrick on CMP’s behalf. After all, television broadcasters have been using the undercover-infiltration model for decades, at the local and national level. If targets of those investigations can successfully get a prior restraint on speech on the basis that people will dislike them after the broadcast, then they will have conceded a huge chunk of the First Amendment in that process. And somehow, I don’t see this argument being a winner if the NRA deployed it in Orrick’s courtroom … or any other court, either.
Update: As if to make my earlier point …
A fifth video from an anti-abortion group that has published recordings of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the transfer and price of fetal tissue is being released Tuesday, according to the group.
The Center for Medical Progress’s David Daleiden said Tuesday morning that the latest video to be released would be similar to the first four, which have led to a defunding fight over Planned Parenthood.
“Perhaps it’s going to be even more shocking,” Daleiden said on CNN’s “New Day,” adding, “You’re going to see evidence in it of how Planned Parenthood is willing to sell fully in-tact fetuses to buyers of aborted fetal tissue.”