LOS ANGELES (AP) - Free speech rights should allow an anti-abortion group to release videos of discussions with a California company that provides fetal tissue for research, even if they were illegally recorded, a judge said Friday.

LOS ANGELES (AP) Free speech rights should allow an anti-abortion group to release videos of discussions with a California company that provides fetal tissue for research, even if they were illegally recorded, a judge said Friday.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joanne O'Donnell issued a tentative ruling rejecting efforts by StemExpress to block the videos, though she said the company likely will prevail in its lawsuit claiming its privacy was violated by an anti-abortion activist posing as a biomedical company employee.

The case arose as the little-known Center for Medical Progress released videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing providing aborted fetal organs for research.

Abortion opponents said the video showed Planned Parenthood is illegally harvesting and selling the organs. Planned Parenthood said it did nothing wrong and the videos were deceptively edited to support extremists' false claims.

Placerville-based StemExpress, which got some of its fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood, realized the center also secretly record its chief executive and others. It sued to pre-emptively block those videos from being seen.

StemExpress won a temporary restraining order last month, but O'Donnell said the center's First Amendment rights trumped the company's right to privacy in what it believed were confidential conversations.

If O'Donnell affirms her ruling, a lawyer for the center said it probably will release the video, though the company will seek a stay from an appeals court.

The company, which broke ties with Planned Parenthood last week, claimed the videos were illegally obtained because officials weren't notified they were being recorded and their right to privacy was violated. A lawsuit over their privacy claims is pending.

Chief Executive Officer Catherine Dyer said the company's connection to Planned Parenthood led to violent threats and forced her to hire a security team.

Releasing the videos would draw the company and Dyer "deeper into the vortex of public animosity stirred up by CMP's crusade to brand everyone associated with Planned Parenthood as evil criminals," the company said in court papers.

Attorney Charles LiMandri said Dyer and others had no expectation of privacy in a public restaurant and noted there was no confidentiality agreement beforehand.

LiMandri defended the covert recordings.

"This is the only way to get the information," LiMandri said. "You don't go in a den of thieves dressed like a cop."