Planned Parenthood said Thursday that it will sue the conservative anti-abortion group behind secretly taped videos that appeared to show abortion providers selling fetal tissue, which ignited a firestorm over the women's-health organization before the videos were widely criticized as having been deceptively edited.
Officials announced they would sue the Center for Medical Progress and the company behind it, Biomax, for "providing fraudulent information in violation of federal law" to gain access to Planned Parenthood conferences and doctors as part of what they called an "elaborate secret conspiracy" to discredit the organization that provides reproductive health care and abortions.
Amy Bonse, a lawyer representing Planned Parenthood, said the organization was seeking damages of an unspecified amount. She said the lawsuit names Center for Medical Progress head David Daleiden and several others as "members of a criminal enterprise" and alleges that they "engaged in repeated criminal acts," including falsifying drivers' licenses, secretly taping, breach of contract, and "providing fraudulent information in violation of federal law."
"The laws are clear," Bonse said. "David and his co-conspirators repeatedly and knowingly violated them."
The videos led to a congressional clash over government funding for the group and became a flash point in the presidential race. Multiple investigations of the allegations have found no evidence of any wrongdoing.
Daleiden responded defiantly to the lawsuit on Thursday. "Game on," he wrote in an email. "I look forward to taking the depositions of all the Planned Parenthood CEOs who profited off of their business relationship with StemExpress."
Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood for America, called the defendants in the lawsuit "among the nation's most extreme anti-abortion activists," and noted that the videos had led to an increase in threats against doctors and other providers. She linked last year's shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic to the heated climate created by the videos.
And she reiterated that allegations of the group selling fetal tissue for profit are "patently untrue."
"This case is about a network of anti-abortion extremists and the laws they broke in order to spread lies and harm Planned Parenthood." she said. "This entire smear campaign is a fraud based on illegal acts and a web of lies."
— Additional reporting by Alex Altman