See more of our coverage on the misleading Center for Medical Progress videos here.
In a letter to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, 32 attorneys from across the country asked that her investigation of the anti-choice front group behind the Planned Parenthood attack videos be conducted with the “utmost urgency,” due to what they call “a real threat to abortion provider safety.”
Harris, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, announced on Friday that her office will review whether the Center for Medical Progress, a group with ties to violent anti-choice extremists, violated California law when it posed as a fake biologics company and recorded Planned Parenthood officials without their consent.
The now-notorious videos show Planned Parenthood employees discussing the organization’s fetal tissue donation program. Although tissue donation is legal in the United States, CMP and conservatives have said the videos are evidence of illegal trafficking. CMP has said it plans to release a new video every Tuesday for at least the next few months.
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California law requires the consent of all parties before a confidential conversation is recorded.
On Tuesday, the group of attorneys argued that in exposing the identities of abortion providers, CMP may have put them at risk of harassment, intimidation, or worse. Abortion providers and clinic staff often face personal attacks by anti-choice extremists because of the work that they do.
CMP’s attacks against Planned Parenthood come months after a national survey found that there have been significantly higher levels of threats and targeted intimidation of clinic doctors and staff in recent years. The survey found that 25 percent of all clinics report they experience anti-choice protest activity at their facility on a daily basis.
Writing for Rewire, David S. Cohen, one of the letter’s signatories, discusses the threat of violence abortion providers must live with:
This kind of individual targeting takes on a variety of forms—from hate mail and death threats, to regular large-scale demonstrations in front of people’s homes and stalking providers outside of work. At its most extreme, this kind of targeting has resulted in eight abortion providers murdered since 1993, the most recent being Dr. George Tiller in the foyer of his Wichita, Kansas church in May 2009.
California has long acknowledged the threat faced by abortion providers. The state in 2002 expanded its Safe at Home program to include abortion providers, allowing them to protect their identities from public disclosure. The program is available only to people in fear for their safety, victims of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault, and reproductive health care employees, patients, and volunteers.
“Given the unique risks that abortion providers face of being targeted by anti-abortion extremists, abortion providers whose images and names are blasted across the internet in this fashion face grave threats to their and their family’s safety,” say the 32 lawyers, who express worry that more providers’ identities will be revealed in the coming weeks as CMP releases new videos.
The group believes Harris’ investigation into the legality of CMP’s scheme could effectively halt the promised stream of videos.