Employees at the University of Washington’s Birth Defects Research Center filed a federal class-action lawsuit to prevent release of their names. The employees fear harassment and violence from anti-abortion activists because the Center uses fetal tissue in its research.
The Center’s workers seek an injunction to prevent the sharing of their names with an anti-abortion group, Center for Medical Progress, that filed a public disclosure request. The PDR also covers home addresses and home phone numbers of the employees. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs would willingly release laboratory documents and invoices, but with employee names removed.
After the release last summer of edited videos purportedly of Planned Parenthood representatives selling fetal tissue, the Center’s workers concern for their safety increased. Since 1964, the federally funded Center has collected and distributed donated fetal tissues for research conducted by academic and non-profit research facilities. Its tissue collection includes donations from miscarriages, stillbirths and abortions. Some of its tissue donations come from a Washington state Planned Parenthood clinic.
According to the Seattle Times, during 2014, the Center collected 596 fetal samples from two local hospitals and seven clinics. These were donations by consent of the women who had carried the fetuses. Of the 3,000 abortions performed at the Washington state Planned Parenthood clinic that donates to the Center, 20 women donated tissue. The Center does not purchase or sell tissue. In 2014, it distributed 1,109 fetal tissues to more than 60 researchers. Its funding, $700,000 per year, comes from the National Institutes of Health.
The plaintiffs number about 150, including employees of the Center, and its affiliates, Evergreen Hospital Medical Center, Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and Idaho, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Cedar River Clinics. The lawsuit cites prior violent actions by abortion activists as reason to withhold the employees’ personally identifiable information. It specifically cites the November 2015 Colorado Springs shooting at a Planned Parenthood office that resulted in three deaths and wounded nine as an example.
The lawsuit names as defendants the University of Washington, and David Daleiden and Zachary Freeman of the Family Policy Institute of Washington. U.S. District Judge James Robart serves as presiding judge, but has not yet scheduled a hearing.