It isn’t every day the mainstream media and the pro-life movement are running on the same track together against Planned Parenthood. Now, however, a bill in the California State Assembly has united the two in an effort to derail a bill designed to wreck free speech in the state.
Assembly Bill 1671, the bill that would make it a crime to record and publish conversations with health care providers, advanced this week through the House and is headed to the Senate, where it is also expected to pass, threatening free speech not only for pro-lifers, but for all journalists.
The California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA), has vocally opposed this bill, saying that attempts to amend the bill’s language to protect their free speech have failed. Instead, CNPA says that Gomez’s bill is a blatant violation of the First Amendment:
The bill has been repeatedly pulled from hearing in the author’s attempt to sort out language that would remove the many opponents to the bill, including CNPA. Despite continued efforts to craft narrowly-tailored language that does not potentially capture journalists’ activity, the bill’s sponsor, Planned Parenthood, has been unwilling to squarely address CNPA’s concerns to protect the redistribution of an illegal recording that depicts a matter of high public interest.
The amendments to the bill have narrowed its scope which would target only recordings where one party to the recording is a health care provider. While this does narrow the bill, it still captures a significant net of newsworthy content. It still has a chilling effect. And it still violates First Amendment law.
CNPA, California Broadcasters, and the Motion Picture Association all oppose AB 1671, and CNPA opined that even while it did not support the Center for Medical Progress and its investigation, the bill was a dangerous veer off a windy road:
CNPA has been vigorously opposing the bill sponsored by Planned Parenthood, which would impose liability on news reporters, editors, lawyers, and publishers for doing their job by making it a crime to distribute an unlawfully recorded conversation.
In California, all parties to a private conversation must consent to its recording or the recorder has violated the penal code. But distribution of that recording has never been a crime in this state. And it’s not a crime anywhere else because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that laws criminalizing the distribution of content are almost always unconstitutional.
CNPA insists that even if it passes, it will be challenged in court, and struck down, costing the state money in litigation fees.
One reporter who supports Planned Parenthood and opposed the Center for Medical Progress’ investigation, also opposes AB 1671, likewise calling it a danger to free speech. Thomas Peele reports in the San Jose Mercury News:
But Gomez’s bill makes acts of journalism illegal. That cannot stand, no matter what’s behind it.
Gomez, D-Los Angeles, says he’s fixing a loophole in existing law.
What he’s really doing is trampling the First Amendment.
Gomez has sought to create a law that would prevent citizen journalists like CMP founder David Daleiden from doing their jobs; however, because Daleiden was working the same way reporters for 60 Minutes, various news channels, and investigative reporters do every day, stifling the rights of pro-lifers actually becomes a stifling of every journalist’s right to free speech. Thus, Gomez’s bill has united pro-lifers and journalists who advocate for abortion since it broadly attacks the rights of them all.
Live Action President, Lila Rose, said:
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. 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.
A watchdog media is a cornerstone of a democratic society, and when the public funds half of the abortion giant’s operations, it has a right to know that its money isn’t being used to break the law or commit abuses. Planned Parenthood commits nearly one third of all abortions in this country — over 320,000 each year. Americans understand that abortion is a grave act that takes a human life, and undercover journalists have been the ones who have exposed the many abuses that often accompany it.
This outrageous bill is a direct attack on the freedom of the press and is blatantly unconstitutional. 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.
If California chooses to restrict the rights of pro-lifers exposing Planned Parenthood, it will have to face the wrath of media outlets. As much as some in the mainstream media may disagree with pro-lifers, all journalists know that the right to free speech and its dissemination is a foundation of our nation, and no one is willing to forfeit that. Except Jimmy Gomez and his Democratic legislators – and Planned Parenthood – of course.