Comments made by a federal judge on Friday handed a momentary victory to Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) proponents and Democrats who support funding of the non-profit reproductive health services organization. However, there's a lingering question that has to be addressed at some point: Will Carly Fiorina and GOP critics accept the court's opinion?
According to a report by CBS News, U.S. District Judge William Orrick said that covert recordings made by an anti-abortion group do not show any elements of criminal activity. Further, the court warned that content in the videos has the potential of putting at risk those who provide abortion services.
The comments by Judge Orrick were made during a scheduled hearing to address a preliminary injunction request made by the National Abortion Federation (NAF). The group petitioned the court to renew its ban on any further release of Planned Parenthood recordings. At Friday's meeting, he did not issue a ruling, despite making comments suggesting his support of a permanent ban because anti-abortion activists and the GOP had not succeeded in proving any crimes had occurred.
Judge Says That There Is No Evidence Of Criminal Activity At Planned Parenthood - https://t.co/FuqiT2pu6f pic.twitter.com/J3Kx5aL8PKCarly Fiorina, a Republican presidential candidate and a member of her party attacked Planned Parenthood over allegations the group is illegally harvesting tissue from aborted fetuses.
— Rapid Fire News (@RapidFireUSA) December 20, 2015
Fiorina and members of Congress launched campaigns against the continued funding of the group. Additionally, some suggested the opening of a probe for possible criminal activity.
Several secretly recorded videos released online by The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) show PPH workers allegedly selling human fetal tissue for profit. Without question, the harvesting of baby parts is illegal. However, officials for Planned Parenthood say a law on the books allows its group to receive reimbursements for the sole reason of processing aborted fetus tissue at the request of women who've undergone legal abortions.
The NAF lashed out at CMP for its undercover operation on allegations it is politically motivated and done by distorting the truth. A lawsuit filed in court says the Center illegally recorded members without consent, and the release of the videos may jeopardize the safety of Federation members.
The judge appeared to follow along in support of the assertions. Orrick said some doctors who unknowingly appeared in the videos have already received death threats, and law enforcement officials are not down-playing the seriousness. The judge referenced several fires at abortion clinics that are believed to be the work of arsonists. Also, he mentioned the shootings at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic last month.
Robert Lewis Dear was the shooter during the rampage that left three people dead and nine injured. According to a Jezebel report, the facility, which closed after the November 27 incident, has not reopened to the public.
An unnamed law enforcement source said when Lewis was being taken into custody, he said, "no more baby parts." Further, during a court hearing this month, the suspect said, "I am guilty, there will be no trial. I am a warrior for the babies." However, Catherine Short, a CMP attorney, denied Lewis has any link to the clinic or was motivated by the secret recordings.
Short says the release of the videos furthers discussion around the hot-button issue of abortion. The purpose was to continue the dialog and allow entities and the American people to decide if the laws are written "too loosely." Center officials say what they did was the same as any investigative journalist would have done under similar circumstances.
"It's beyond dispute that this material is of significant public interest. I don't think this court should be saying the public can't handle the truth," Short said.
Carly Fiorina continues to be a vocal proponent for cutting off funding for PPH. Under newly-appointed Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, it appeared the GOP gave up its efforts to nix financial subsidies to the agency. Multiple news outlets reported that Republicans' removal of the measure as a negotiating tool for the spending budget signaled they were yielding to Democrats who injected women's health into the mix.
For now, it may be an issue that is merely sidelined; reportedly House Republicans are more focused on the plight of refugees and the 2016 Elections. Still, Fiorina is not backing off from claims that Planned Parenthood is breaking the law at the expense of American taxpayer dollars.
Although the judge has not officially handed down a ruling, it's clear that the burden of proof is on opponents to provide any evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Until then, the mood about shutting off funding is lukewarm, at best.
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