SACRAMENTO, CA: California Governor Gavin Newsom today signed a law that creates new crimes for intentionally electronically recording clients and/or staff within 100 feet of the entrance of an abortion clinic with the specific intent of intimidating them from going into the clinic.
This new law, which is an expansion of California’s “Freedom of Access to Clinic and Church Entrances” (FACE) Act, has many pro-lifers concerned that they will no longer be allowed to record activities outside abortion mills. We have received numerous inquiries that contain inaccurate information about the law.
The law, AB 1356, uses several legal terms that restrict its application. First, “intimidating” is defined in the law as “to place a person in reasonable apprehension of bodily harm to themselves or to another.” Reasonableness in the law is not subjective; rather it is how a rational person would respond under the circumstances.
“Specific intent” is a legal term of art that requires a state of mind (mens rea) along with a criminal act. In the case of AB 1356, it means an individual is recording clients and/or staff knowing that the recording will result in an abortion client or staff being in fear of bodily harm so that they do not enter an abortion clinic or remain a client or staff member of the clinic.
“Bodily harm” is not defined in the law. However, Black’s Law Dictionary defines the term as “Any touching of the person of another against his will with physical force, in an intentional, hostile, and aggressive manner, or a projecting of such force against his person.”
The law does not prohibit pro-lifers from recording their interactions with abortion clinic escorts or other pro-aborts for the purpose of preventing or demonstrating harassment or assault against pro-lifers.
Also, contrary to some media reports, the new law places no restrictions on leafletting or speaking to individuals entering or leaving an abortion clinic.
The law also expands an existing law that prohibits posting or displaying the home address or phone number of abortion clinic staff or clients with the intent to cause a third person to commit great bodily injury to also prohibit disclosing or distributing that information.
Finally, the law requires law enforcement agencies to report on the number of calls, arrests, and charges filed in incidents of “anti-reproductive-rights” crimes. Pro-lifers should be aware that many abortion clinic staff across the country call the police every time they so much as feel uncomfortable with the presence of pro-lifers outside their doors. The objective is to compile a record of incidents that can be used to justify bubble zone laws and other restrictions to constitutionally protected speech on public sidewalks. We encourage pro-lifers to make sure the police get their side of the story as well and request police reports to make sure they correctly reflect what transpired.
“Life Legal was founded to protect pro-lifers from harassment, threats, and wrongful arrests because of their pro-life views,” said Life Legal CEO Alexandra Snyder. “While we oppose all legislation that would restrict First Amendment speech, we want to make sure that people have accurate information about AB 1356 so they are not deterred from continuing with lawful pro-life activities.”
Please contact Life Legal if you have questions about the application of AB 1356 to your pro-life work.