The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) – an anti-abortion organization – made quite a stir last year when it released a series of videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing profits made by illegally trading fetal tissue. Activists from the organization posed as employees of a fake biomedical company called Biomax Procurement Services and recorded meetings with workers from the women’s health nonprofit in a campaign to delegitimize the organization. During these meetings, activists proposed fake contracts to purchase fetal body parts, none of which were signed or agreed upon by the Planned Parenthood workers targeted by the scheme.

The veracity of what these videos depict has since come into question, as a congressional hearing designed to uncover wrongdoing at Planned Parenthood instead found an organization working entirely within the confines of the law. Eight state-level investigations have come to similiar conclusions.

Raw footage from the video series actually shows a Planned Parenthood executive repeatedly refuting an activist’s insistence that there was any precedent for selling fetal tissue for research, despite a final edit that altered what the individual in question said in order to mischaracterize Planned Parenthood’s operations.

Even if much of general public remains unswayed by CMP’s smear-campaign, the controversy has had a decidedly deleterious impact. Numerous state legislatures and governors have targeted Planned Parenthood, cutting funding and limiting women’s access to vital health services. In Colorado, a gunman cited CMP’s videos as justification for an attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic that killed three people. Workers for the nonprofit have spoken out over an increased number of death threats following the videos’ emergence.

Planned Parenthood, however, is poised to strike back. On January 14, the nonprofit filed a suit against CMP, alleging that the organization broke a number of state and federal laws, including the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The suit seeks extensive monetary reparations for workers who have been forced to move, have been threatened with violence, or have been picketed at their homes. The lawsuit also states that – in the months of July and August 2015 alone – there were 849 acts of vandalism against Planned Parenthood facilities across the United States.

When a nonprofit’s identity and message is hijacked by a hostile party, the basic pursuit of its organizational mission becomes immensely difficult. Especially for an organization that provides life-saving medical services for disadvantaged women, the reckless falsification of evidence claiming unlawful and cruel behavior is, in itself, unlawful and cruel behavior. Nonprofit professionals should maintain a rigorous standard of truth, and abide by a considered approach to uncovering facts. In doing so, they can help marginalize noxious voices in the nonprofit world willing to lie to their audiences in order to achieve their goals.

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