California Readies to Criminalize Journalists Who Secretly Record ‘Healthcare Providers’

Tim Huelskamp

A controversial bill that would criminalize undercover journalists who secretly record and distribute conversations with “healthcare providers” is poised to become law in California.

Debate on AB 1671, introduced by Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D) at the request of Planned Parenthood, placed leftwing lawmakers and organizations – normally supportive of the abortion business – in the awkward position of criticizing its insistence that undercover journalists be severely punished for exposing potential corruption in its organization.

The bill comes as Planned Parenthood is desperately attempting to suppress information regarding its recent “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 illegally selling the body parts of babies it aborts, as well as altering the position of babies during abortion to maximize the chance of harvesting intact organs.

Opponents of the bill – such as the ACLU and media organizations – expressed concerns 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 more than half a billion dollars annually 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 fetal tissue for profit.

A “compromise” on the bill makes the change that media outlets cannot be penalized if they were not involved in the original recording of the “healthcare provider.”

Nikki Moore, legal counsel to the California Newspaper Publishers Association, said her organization will change its position from opposed to neutral on the measure, reports the Los Angeles Times.

“While we find it troubling that this bill potentially criminalizes speech, we realize this bill had political momentum and our immediate concern is to protect newspapers and journalists,” she said.

Even the Los Angeles Times editorial board is critical of the measure:

State law already makes it a criminal violation of privacy, punishable by up to 3 years in prison, to use an electronic device to listen in on or record people without their permission. Gomez’s bill ups the ante by making it illegal for the eavesdropper to disclose or distribute “in any manner, in any forum,” what that person heard or recorded, if the victim is any type of healthcare provider. That prohibition would apply regardless of what the healthcare provider was discussing — not just sensitive details about patients, but also private conversations about fees and billing practices, drug marketers, or plans for the weekend.

Why a healthcare provider merits special protection even when discussing things that don’t involve patient privacy is mystifying. Worse, the original version of the bill pushed by Planned Parenthood would have allowed prosecutors to target not just those who made the recordings, but those who shared them online, reported on them or published the transcripts.

David Daleiden, the project lead for Center for Medical Progress’ undercover exposé of Planned Parenthood, tells Breitbart News:

Planned Parenthood still can’t own up to the fact that their senior leadership was caught on camera talking about which places on a late-term baby to crush or not crush in order to harvest the most valuable body parts for sale–so instead they are trying to make it a crime to see the evidence. Citizen journalism is a First Amendment right, not a crime. The only crime is the one Planned Parenthood is trying to cover up: their abortion-and-baby-parts-for-profit scheme.

Pro-life organization Live Action has also performed undercover investigations of Planned Parenthood’s alleged coverups of sex-trafficking and child sexual abuse, as well as alleged deceptive counsel to women about abortion in its clinics.

“Instead of being compelled to be more transparent with the public, taxpayer-funded Planned Parenthood wants to jail journalists and whistleblowers who record and distribute footage that shows it potentially breaking the law,” says Live Action’s president, Lila Rose.

Rose continues:

The California Newspaper Publishers Association — not an organization that’s necessarily sympathetic to the pro-life cause – said even the newly amended version of the bill still “potentially criminalizes speech.” Planned Parenthood is brazenly attacking the First Amendment, aided and abetted by California legislators who are protecting a major campaign donor.

When the public funds half of Planned Parenthood’s operations, it has a right to know that its money isn’t being used to break the law or commit abuses, and governments should be taking steps to make things more transparent, not less. Americans understand that abortion is a grave act, and with Planned Parenthood committing over 320,000 abortions each year, investigative journalists and whistleblowers have been the ones exposing the many abuses that often accompany it.

“This bill doesn’t protect women; instead, it puts Planned Parenthood above the law and lets it hide potentially illegal and abusive activity from public view,” Rose said, concluding, “If this bill becomes law in California, Planned Parenthood could attempt to pass similar bans all over the country.”


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