Under the pretext of sealing a loophole in existing law, the California Legislature appears poised to pass a bill drafted by Planned Parenthood that criminalizes the public dissemination of secretly recorded private conversations with healthcare providers. But an unlikely coalition of opponents insists the bill will not pass constitutional muster and is a blatant attempt by the abortion giant to thwart future undercover investigations of suspected illegal activities.
The bill, AB 1671, passed the Democrat-controlled Assembly on May 31 and now awaits a Senate vote. If approved without amendment, it will go to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.
California law prohibits the secret recording of conversations but not the distribution of those recordings. AB 1671 only prohibits the broadcasting of illegally recorded conversations with healthcare providers, prompting critics like the California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA) to call it “a content-based regulation and presumptively unconstitutional.” The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled previously against any attempt to prevent the broadcast of illegally obtained recordings.
“This state is being ruled by people who want to shred the First Amendment and hide barbaric activities … from the eyes of the people,” said Assemblyman Jim Patterson.
So-called sponsored bills, like AB 1671, are drafted by special interest groups or individuals and presented to legislators willing to put their names to them, Patterson said. The practice is touted as a means of transparency but is little more than a pay-to-play scheme, insisted Patterson, who said he never carries sponsored bills.
Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, a Democrat, who carried AB 1671 for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California (PPAC), has taken $13,500 in campaign contributions from PPAC and PP Advocacy Project Los Angeles County Action Fund since 2014. He also earned a 100 percent approval rating from PPAC in 2014. In October, Gomez was honored alongside actress Lena Dunham as a “Champion of Choice” by the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project of Los Angeles County.
PPAC represents a state-wide coalition of Planned Parenthood centers that are plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed last year against Center for Medical Progress (CMP) founder David Daleiden. The suit claims Daleiden and his co-defendants violated federal racketeering laws in their three-year undercover investigation of Planned Parenthood and subsequent publication of a series of secretly recorded videos. The CMP investigation showed Planned Parenthood representatives bartering over the cost of aborted fetal remains.
While AB 1671 is designed to prevent another pro-life investigation targeting Planned Parenthood, it applies to all journalists.
“Newspapers publish leaked documents all the time. But for the first time, California will consider making that distribution a criminal act,” CNPA wrote in a statement condemning AB 1671. “The bill would expose newspapers to criminal liability for ‘permitting’ or ‘causing to be done’ the publishing of a matter of high public concern.”
The media organization’s opposition to the bill puts it in an awkward alliance with CMP. While declaring the bill unconstitutional and the “criminalization of legitimate newsgathering and reporting,” CNPA also indicated it was sympathetic to Planned Parenthood’s grievance against Daleiden. In its statement opposing AB 1671, CNPA claimed Daleiden’s actions “violated numerous laws,” even though Daleiden has not been convicted in criminal or civil court.
And during its efforts to defeat or amend the legislation, CNPA recognized members of the Appropriations Committee found it “politically tough for some to stomach opposing a group that fights for women’s rights and protects their health.”
But CMP’s investigation painted a different picture, showing aborted babies with limbs severed from their bodies and Planned Parenthood officials discussing the monetary value of each part. As the adoptive father of three children, Patterson found the videos particularly offensive.
“But for the grace of God and the decency of the birth mother … that would be my daughter,” he said. “So, yeah, this is deep in my soul.”
— by Bonnie Pritchett | WNS