SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A compromise has been reached in a controversial California bill that criminalized undercover filming at abortion facilities, as well as the publication of such material.
As previously reported, Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Echo Park) proposed the measure earlier this year in light of the undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress exposing Planned Parenthood’s provision of baby bodily organs to procurement companies.
“It is the intent of the legislature to enact legislation to prohibit any person from intentionally video recording a confidential communication, or disclosing or distributing that video-recording communication, without obtaining the consent of all parties to the communication,” A.B. 1671 reads.
It criminalizes any person who “intentionally discloses or attempts to disclose, or distributes or attempts to distribute, distributes, in any manner, in any forum, including, but not limited to, Internet Web sites and social media, or for any purpose, the contents of the a confidential communication with a health care provider.”
Violations may result in up to a year behind bars and/or a $2,500 fine. Repeat offenders may face up to a $10,000 fine.
But publishing and broadcasting groups had expressed concern that journalists might be leveled with criminal penalties for reporting on the footage.
“A person aids and abets the commission of an offense when he or she, with knowledge of the unlawful purpose of the perpetrator and with the intent or purpose of committing, facilitating, or encouraging the commission of the offense, by act or advice, aids, promotes, encourages, or instigates the commission of the offense,” the bill read.
Talks with Gomez have now resulted in changes to the legislation so that only those who record the footage would be penalized.
“We took precautions to make sure the press could still do their jobs,” Gomez told reporters on Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The California Newspaper Publishers Association says that it is still concerned, but its immediate interests have been satisfied.
“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,” attorney Nikki Moore told the outlet.
Planned Parenthood had said that the law didn’t go far enough.
“With the Internet and the tremendous wildfire nature in which news can be spread now through social media, we need to have a crime against distribution by those in particular who did the illegal recording,” said attorney Beth Parker. “A slap on the hand of a $2,500 fine isn’t sufficient.”
Since the bill’s inception, pro-life groups have expressed concern over the proposed legislation, stating that it not only violates the First Amendment but also would prohibit evidence of criminal activity from being obtained and turned over to authorities.
“For years, undercover journalists have documented Planned Parenthood employees covering up for sex traffickers, failing to report child sexual abusers, and trafficking in baby body parts,” Lila Rose of Live Action said in a statement in May. “Rather than be more transparent with the public, Planned Parenthood wants to make it a crime for the media to publish evidence that it might be doing something illegal.”
She remarked that because Planned Parenthood is publicly funded, Americans need to know about the activities at the organization.
“This bill puts Planned Parenthood’s interests ahead of the First Amendment, its clients, and the public, and it would keep evidence of illegal or abusive activity hidden from nearly everyone’s view,” Rose stated.