Still scrambling to defend itself against an undercover exposé that revealed its alleged fetal tissue harvesting practices, abortion giant Planned Parenthood is now pushing a bill through the California state legislature that would punish undercover journalists for publishing and distributing recordings of private communication with a “health care provider.”
AB 1671, dubbed the “Planned Parenthood bill,” is on the verge of passage. According to an analysis of the measure by the State Senate Committee on Appropriations, chaired by state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens):
AB 1671 would make it an alternate felony-misdemeanor offense to intentionally distribute, or to aid and abet the distribution of, a confidential communication with a health care provider that was obtained unlawfully. This bill would additionally require the fines specified under the new crime established and the existing offense of unlawfully eavesdropping or recording a confidential communication to be imposed on a per-violation basis.
The measure would make the publishing and distribution of videos from undercover journalism operations featuring footage of “health care providers” a new crime. Journalists who engage in the activity could be punished with a fine of $2,500 for a first offense and additional offenses could lead to a prison sentence of up to a year.
As Courthouse News Service (CNS) reports, the legislation would not exempt whistleblowers from criminalization or civil lawsuits.
Spearheaded by Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles), the bill comes as Planned Parenthood is desperately attempting to suppress information regarding its “baby parts” scandal. Last year, undercover journalists from the Center for Medical Progress released a series of videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s alleged practices of exchanging the tissues of babies it aborts for monetary consideration, and altering the position of babies during abortion in order to maximize the chance of harvesting intact organs.
Opponents of the bill are concerned about its potential to violate the First Amendment rights of the press and to obstruct journalists’ job of providing information that is in the best interests of the public. In the case of Planned Parenthood – which receives over half a billion dollars in taxpayer funds – it is in the interest of taxpayers to know if their money is spent on potentially criminal behavior, such as the sale of body parts of aborted babies for profit.
According to CNS, Planned Parenthood has played a major role in designing the legislation:
Nikki Moore, legal counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, said the bill creates a dangerous liability for the distribution of footage and could unintentionally punish more people than intended. She said the publishers association has been working with Planned Parenthood since March to narrow the bill, but that the series of amendments have not gone far enough.
“The scenario that [Planned Parenthood] is trying to prevent is a very specific one,” Moore said. “We’ve been trying to help them find a way to accomplish their goals while not infringing on the First Amendment or creating liabilities for media.”
Despite the fact that laws exist already in California to protect private conversations, Planned Parenthood is pushing for punitive action against third parties for spreading “confidential communication.”
Beth Parker, chief legal counsel for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said the bill would prevent undercover journalists from spreading their secretly recorded information on the internet.
“Since the smear campaign began last summer, Planned Parenthood health centers have seen a 900 percent increase in threats and violence,” Kathy Kneer, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said in a statement. “That’s why it’s so important to pass AB 1671 — to protect the constitutional privacy rights and the safety of health providers.”
Though the ACLU often supports Planned Parenthood, in this case the civil liberties group is strongly opposed to the measure, citing its “potential for real harm,” and arguing the legislation is unconstitutional.
“The same rationale for punishing communications of some preferred professions or industries could as easily be applied to other communications [such as] law enforcement, animal testing labs, gun makers, lethal injection drug producers, the petroleum industry and religious sects,” ACLU legislative director Kevin Baker wrote in a letter to Gomez, reports CNS.
Both a publishers’ lobbying group and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) are also opposed to the extreme language contained in the bill, CNS reports.
Since the release of the Planned Parenthood baby parts video series that stunned the nation, the organization has been attempting to suppress further exposure and seeking cover from its media and political allies, especially Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, a longtime “friend” of the group. Planned Parenthood is spending $20 million to help elect Clinton, and has recently announced that it is registering people to vote at all of its clinics, on college campuses, and online as well.
Soon after the release of the video series, Harris County, Texas District Attorney Devon Anderson convened a grand jury – under suspicion of bias – that cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing in the exposé and, instead, indicted CMP project lead David Daleiden and his colleague Sandra Merritt.
Reacting to the indictment of Daleiden and Merritt, two pro-choice law professors wrote that the action amounted to “a stunning act of legal jujitsu” and was a “deeply disturbing” outcome both for the First Amendment and undercover citizen journalists attempting to expose corruption.
Subsequently, a judge dismissed all charges against Daleiden, though many media outlets hardly reported that news at all.
Meanwhile, congressional Democrats – whose party now fully embraces abortion-on-demand – have attempted to suppress any further release of damning information about Planned Parenthood’s practices by demanding a complete shutdown of an ongoing congressional investigation.
While Planned Parenthood has denied any wrongdoing, its president, Cecile Richards also released a statement last October announcing it will no longer accept payments for aborted fetal tissue. The narrative put forward at that point was that the videos produced by CMP were “deceptively edited.”
Nevertheless, a Democrat opposition research firm named Fusion, hired by Planned Parenthood itself to review the videos, said that while its staff observed the videos had been edited – as most videos are – “the analysis did not reveal widespread evidence of substantive video manipulation.”
Additionally, Fusion noted, “[A]nalysts found no evidence that CMP inserted dialogue not spoken by Planned Parenthood staff.”
An analysis by Coalfire, a third-party forensics company hired by Alliance Defending Freedom, found that the videos were “not manipulated” and that they are “authentic.”
Still another attempt to keep further information about the video exposé under wraps occurred just two weeks ago when Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against the University of Washington in federal court to block the school from revealing information about the organization’s involvement in its fetal parts research program.
The California Senate Appropriations Committee analysis of the “Planned Parenthood bill” shows considerable concern about the measure.
“Consequently, to the extent this measure contains language that could be challenged as unconstitutional, this bill could result in potentially significant costs associated with litigation, both to the court and to the Attorney General,” the analysis states.
As CNS reports, the state’s Department of Finance also testified in opposition to the legislation, emphasizing the impact on the justice system derived from the “significant costs associated with litigation” if the bill were to become law. Additionally, the department observed the highly specific nature of a measure – geared closely to the needs of Planned Parenthood – that would also produce such negative impact. “Health care providers,” the department noted, after all, are very infrequently the target of such undercover exposés.
Assemblyman Gomez, however, insists his bill “closes a loophole.”
On May 31, the Assembly passed the bill at a floor vote, 52-26. The state Senate will vote on the bill at the end of August.