A California court issued a temporary restraining order Wednesday prohibiting the group behind the covert Planned Parenthood videos from releasing any footage involving top officials from StemExpress, a company that supplies fetal tissue to researchers.
The Los Angeles Superior Court order bans the Center for Medical Progress from releasing video taken at a restaurant in May with three StemExpress officials. This is the first legal response to the videos since the beginning of their release earlier this month, the Associated Press reports.
“The legitimacy of the complaints being made by StemExpress are very questionable as is the state judge issuing a temporary restraining order because the precedent of First Amendment rights frowns on prior restraints,” said Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation.
The group has released four undercover videos alleging to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of aborted fetal tissue for medical research. The latest video was released Thursday morning after the court order.
It shows graphic footage of aborted fetuses inside a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic. At one point, the medical director of the clinic discusses how the group retains legal protections by discussing fetal tissue contracts in a “research vein” rather than as a “business venture.”
David Daleiden, leader of the Center for Medical Progress, said in a statement that StemExpress was using “meritless litigation” to cover up an “illegal baby parts trade” and “suppress free speech.”
“The Center for Medical Progress follows all applicable laws in the course of our investigative journalism work,” he said.
Planned Parenthood provides fetal tissue to StemExpress, which is based in California and supplies human blood, tissue and other clinical specimens to biomedical researchers.
A StemExpress spokesman told the Associated Press the company is “grateful its rights have been vindicated in a court of law.”
Under U.S. law, it is illegal to sell fetal tissue for profit, but donations for scientific research are permitted.
Planned Parenthood has denied misconduct, maintaining that the videos misrepresent the group’s participation in tissue research programs and that it does not make a profit off the donations.
The Senate will vote next week on a Republican-led bill that would block federal funds to Planned Parenthood following the release of the covert videos.