Federal Court Rules Anti-Abortion Group Can't Plead the Fifth
A federal judge ruled last week that the anti-abortion group calling itself the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) and BioMax, the two defendants in a lawsuit filed by the National Abortion Federation (NAF) in response to the release of several fraudulent "sting" videos, cannot invoke the Fifth Amendment in order to avoid NAF's requests for discovery.
In a defeat for CMP and Biomax, Judge William Orrick of the U.S. District Court of Northern California in San Francisco, ordered that both organizations must comply with the court's requests for documents and other potential pieces of evidence. No U.S. court has allowed a corporation to plead the Fifth Amendment, a protection against self-incrimination.
"It's telling that the defendants have been very vocal in the media saying that they have nothing to hide, yet in federal court they want to plead the Fifth," said NAF President Vicki Saporta. "We are pleased with the results of today's hearing and are eager to move forward with the discovery process."
Both CMP founder, David Daleiden, and Troy Newman, head of Operation Rescue and one of CMP's founding officers, had previously indicated that they intend to plead the Fifth, as individual defendants. The Court rejected their argument that they should be able to use a blanket Fifth Amendment protection against all questions posed by NAF, but that they could assert Fifth Amendment rights on a question-by-question basis. Judge Orrick made clear, however, that plaintiffs could challenge the assertion of the Fifth Amendment and that the Court would rule on a question-by-question basis whether Fifth Amendment protections applied.
In July, NAF filed a lawsuit against extremist organization CMP and Biomax alleging civil conspiracy, racketeering, fraud and breach of contract, following the wide distribution of falsified videos suggesting NAF members, including Planned Parenthood, illegally sold fetal tissue. There is no evidence that Planned Parenthood has ever sold fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood clinics in two states (making up only one percent of Planned Parenthood health centers in the country) allow patients to participate in legal fetal tissue donation programs.
The decision by Judge Orrick marks another victory for NAF and Planned Parenthood as anti-abortion extremists continue to blur the lines of fact and fiction. Last month, the court granted NAF a temporary restraining order against CMP, Biomax, Daleiden, and Newman
Media Resources: Media Resources: National Abortion Federation Press Release 9/18/15; RH Reality Check 9/18/15; Law360 9/14/15; Feminist Newswire 9/1/15, 8/6/15