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Robin Abcarian Commentary, news and analysis
California Journal

Where does Kamala Harris stand on Planned Parenthood videos?

It took a Texas grand jury only two months to reject claims that Planned Parenthood had illegally trafficked in fetal tissue, and instead indict two antiabortion activists whose elaborate plans blew up in their faces. That was some swift poetic justice.

But what's taking California so long?

In July, our politically ambitious attorney general, Kamala Harris, vowed to "carefully review" the "Center for Medical Progress."

In a preliminary injunction order forbidding the Center for Medical Progress from posting more surreptitiously taken videos, U.S. District Judge William Orrick stated in February that the center's principals secured fake California IDs and filed fake California incorporation papers for a fake company called Biomax.

He also acknowledged that they had registered their fake center with California's Registry of Charitable Trusts, used fake credentials to infiltrate a San Francisco meeting of abortion professionals, and videotaped California doctors without consent.

Harris' spokesman told me Wednesday the office does not comment on investigations, or even confirm whether an investigation exists.

Over the last few days, advocates for reproductive rights have wondered aloud during interviews whether Harris' campaign to replace Barbara Boxer in the U.S. Senate has anything to do with her apparent lack of urgency on this case. It's not as if a California Democrat has anything to lose by protecting abortion rights.

Since the Center for Medical Progress launched its campaign, abortion providers have been subject to what Vicki Saporta of the National Abortion Federation described as a "flood of hate speech, threats and violence."

"The volume and the vitriol of what was appearing online was staggering, and frightening," she told me. NAF, the professional association for abortion providers, had to hire an outside security firm to monitor threats.

No one was less surprised than Saporta when a gunman killed a police officer and two others at a Colorado Springs abortion clinic in November. "No more baby parts," he was reported to have told police. In court, the suspect shouted, "I'm a warrior for the babies."

Sadly, neither the Texas indictments nor the exoneration of Planned Parenthood by 12 states following investigations into fetal tissue procurement have done a thing to slow those who would like to install a control panel in the womb of every American woman of childbearing age.

Instead, abortion foes seem empowered.

Republican members of the misleadingly named House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives have subpoenaed medical supply companies and labs for the names of researchers, lab techs and others working with fetal tissue to cure ailments like cancer, Alzheimer's and diabetes. Given the violence, why demand names?

This is not information, this is intimidation.

::

Maybe the courts can help put an end to this nonsense.

Last summer, the National Abortion Federation filed a federal lawsuit naming as defendants the Center for Medical Progress, Biomax Procurement Services LLC, David Daleiden and Troy Newman.

The suit alleges conspiracy, fraud, racketeering, trespassing, illegal recording and breaches of contract in connection with the surreptitious fetal tissue videotapes. (Planned Parenthood has filed a similar lawsuit; both are being heard in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.)

Daleiden, 27, is a relative newcomer to the antiabortion crusade. Newman, 49, is an old hand. He is president of Operation Rescue, which set up shop in Wichita, and harassed late-term abortion doctor George Tiller.

In interviews after the first Center for Medical Progress videos were released in July, Newman took credit for masterminding the operation and recruiting Daleiden. After NAF filed its lawsuit, he resigned from the center's board of directors.

In testimony associated with the lawsuit, Newman invoked his right against self-incrimination, as did Daleiden. ("It's a legal strategy," Newman said when I reached him by phone in Kansas on Thursday. "I've got nothing to hide.")

I met Newman in March 2009 in Wichita. I was there to cover the criminal trial of Tiller, who had been charged with breaking Kansas abortion law. Newman boasted to me that he had helped prosecutors build their case. A jury exonerated Tiller in less time than it took for them to eat their sandwiches.

Two months later, Tiller was killed by a man who had Operation Rescue's phone number on the front seat of his car when he was arrested.

For years, Newman had drawn extremists to Wichita to agitate against Tiller. A few years before Tiller was killed, Newman described the murder of John Britton, a Florida abortion doctor, as "justifiable defensive action."

After Tiller's death, Newman denounced violence and claimed that Tiller was on the verge of being driven out of business anyway. I would describe that as magical thinking.

Less than a year later, I met Saporta in Wichita as well. She had come to monitor the trial of the man who shot Tiller.

Newman, she said, "has played an instrumental role in the extreme wing of the antiabortion movement.... He has a whole website where he is basically telling the people ... where to find physicians and others who provide abortion care."

Newman made a sound like a game-show buzzer when I read that to him. "I can't comment," he said, "even though I am dying to."

::

In February, Judge Orrick said he'd found no evidence of wrongdoing by NAF or Planned Parenthood.

He did, however, find that the Center for Medical Progress, Newman and Daleiden "engaged in repeated instances of fraud, including the manufacture of fake documents, the creation and registration with the state of California of a fake company."

The defendants are appealing the injunction.

But what is Atty. Gen. Harris waiting for?

I'd sure love to know.

Twitter: @AbcarianLAT

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on March 27, 2016, in the News section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Where does Kamala Harris stand? - Abortion rights supporters still await results of her promised review on covert videos. - CALIFORNIA JOURNAL" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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