SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit in San Francisco Thursday against anti-abortion activists who made undercover videos documenting the handling of fetal tissue at some clinics.

The organization alleged the activists engaged in criminal misconduct “in order to spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood,” according to the group.

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“This lawsuit exposes the elaborate, illegal conspiracy designed to block women’s access to safe and legal abortion,” Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens said in a prepared statement.

The anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress released a series of videos in July claiming to show Planned Parenthood staffers negotiating prices for aborted fetal tissue.

“This case is about a network of anti-abortion extremists and the laws they broke in order to spread lies and harm Planned Parenthood,” said Laguens.

In a statement, the Center for Medical Progress characterized the lawsuit as “frivolous.”

“This last-ditch move of desperation is going to expose all of the sordid dealings of the California Planned Parenthood affiliates,” the statement said.

David Daleiden, one of the founders of the Center for Medical Progress and one of the defendants named in the suit, told Associated Press he looked forward to confronting Planned Parenthood in court.

“My response is: Game on,” he told AP. “I look forward to deposing all the CEOs, medical directors, and their co-conspirators who participated in Planned Parenthood’s illegal baby body parts racket.”

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Planned Parenthood maintains it does not profit from tissue donation programs. Federal law prohibits profiting from the sale of donated fetal tissue.

The group said staffers negotiated to cover costs for handling the fetal tissue and research on donated tissue has led to important medical breakthroughs.

The video made by the anti-abortion activists created a firestorm of controversy and a number of investigations of Planned Parenthood, while leading Republican lawmakers to call for cuts to the group’s funding.

None of the investigations has turned up any wrongdoing. Thursday, Kansas’ medical board was the latest to take no action against Planned Parenthood after investigating whether illegal sales of fetal tissue where happening after abortions.

The lawsuit alleges Daleiden, the Center for Medical Progress and co-conspirators violated the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act, committed wire fraud, mail fraud, invasion of privacy, illegal secret recording and trespassing.

Planned Parenthood said the videos also created a “poisonous environment,” with staffers receiving death threats and hate mail.


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Carlos E. Castañeda is Senior Editor, News & Social Media for CBS San Francisco and a San Francisco native. You can follow him on Twitter or send him an email.