A temporary restraining order issued in Los Angeles Superior Court now prevents the shady anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) from releasing any additional secret videos concerning StemExpress, which works with Planned Parenthood affiliates in California to provide fetal tissue to researchers.
I doubt this will slow CMP's video release plans for very long. CMP has released three videos so far; the group's David Dalieden says there'll be a total of twelve. I'm sure the restraining order won't hold for very long -- this court will lift the ban, or another court will, or videos that don't involve StemExpress will move up in the release schedule. (UPDATE: A fourth video was just released, not involving StemExpress.)
CMP has released videos at the rate of one a week, so the plan has been to release them into the fall. I'm struck by the timing: carefully planned to coincide with the months when the presidential campaign is heating up, but distant enough from the election that the whole stunt could be flushed down the memory hole if public reaction turned out to be as negative as the reaction to Todd Akin's rape remarks or Rush Limbaugh's smearing of Sandra Fluke.
As it happens, CMP has somewhat of a hit on its hands: Right-wingers are complaining about what they see as inadequate coverage in the mainstream media, but the story is firing up the right -- at a time when, Donald Trump notwithstanding, the still-likely GOP nominee is the extremely uninspiring Jeb Bush, who'll need something to goose base voters if he's to have any hope of winning the presidency.
And the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, has been defensive about the videos, even as she sticks up for Planned Parenthood as an organization. The organizers of this campaign knew years ago -- we all did -- that Clinton was the likely 2016 Democratic nominee, and that she's linked in most Americans' minds to feminism, and thus to reproductive rights. Getting her into a defensive crouch on this ("The videos coming out about Planned Parenthood are deeply troubling to say the least") is a pretty big win.
And the right is clearly going to build on all this, not just in Washington and on the presidential campaign trail, but in the states. (Here's Florida governor Rick Scott ordering inspections of Planned Parenthood facilities in his state.) That kind of thing is likely to keep happening in Republican-run states (especially if they're presidential swing states). So this story might have legs.
Was this the plan all along -- to target the presidential election? I'm struck not just by the timing of the video releases, but by the history of CMP, which has links to Operation Rescue and Live Action but is a relatively new group.
The first CMP video was released a couple of weeks ago -- and when it came out, we were told that the release was part of "a 30-month-long investigative journalism study." Count back thirty months from July 2015. You end up at January 2013 -- just about the time when conservative activists stung by their failure to unseat Barack Obama in the 2012 election might have finished licking their wounds and decided they were ready to start planning for another election cycle.
You can snicker all you want at Trump and the GOP candidate "clown car," but the right is very good at forcing what seems to be a minor issue, or even an irrelevancy, into the national debate -- remember ACORN and the Swiftboated John Kerry. I think this was intended as a hit on Hillary. And I think it might be working.
UPDATE, SATURDAY, 8/: Tying into this is Karoli Kuns's article about Groundswell, the secretive right-wing group formed -- yes -- in early 2013, with founders including Clarence Thomas's wife and Ted Cruz's chief of staff. Go read what Kuns writes about how Groundswell's work syncs up with CMP's. This is just one of Groundswell's interest areas. But, yes, this is an election-season hit.