This week, the California Senate passed legislation sponsored by Planned Parenthood that expands criminal penalties for recording certain confidential conversations. The bill was designed to target the type of undercover journalism that exposed Planned Parenthood’s harvesting and selling of baby body parts.
Assembly Bill 1671 makes it a crime to record or publish confidential communications with health care providers—even if those conversations disclose criminal activity. Existing laws already criminalize recording of such communications and provide for a $2500 fine. Under AB 1671, the fine is attached to each violation, or each publication of the communication, including those on social media, blogs, websites, etc. Violators can also be sentenced to one year in state prison.
Opponents of the bill include the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The ACLU has said the bill is an unconstitutional content-based regulation of speech and that limiting the bill to conversations with health care providers raises Equal Protection concerns. In Bartnicki v. Vopper, (2001), the Supreme Court found that the disclosure of an illegally intercepted conversation regarding a public issue was protected by the First Amendment.
AB 1671 is a direct attack on the efforts of David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress to expose Planned Parenthood’s illegal practice of selling fetal body parts for profit. Since the release of Daleiden’s videos, eleven states have voted to defund the nation’s largest abortion provider.
By passing AB 1671, California legislators have demonstrated their willingness to trample on the free speech rights of their constituents in order to protect Planned Parenthood’s financial interests.
The bill will go back to the Assembly for a vote, where it is expected to pass. Please watch for upcoming posts seeking your help in urging California Governor Jerry Brown to veto AB 1671.