Life & Society

California Lawmakers Pass Bill to Criminalize Undercover Filming at Abortion Facilities

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. —
Lawmakers in California have passed a controversial bill that criminalizes undercover filming at abortion facilities in the state, sending the legislation now to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown.

The Planned Parenthood-backed bill, A.B. 1671, passed the state Assembly Wednesday with a 52-26 vote, and moved on to the Senate, where it likewise was approved with a party line vote of 26-13—but not without vocal opposition.

“When ’60 Minutes’ uses a hidden camera and discovers a unique story, it’s called outstanding journalism. But when a private citizen does it and unmasks a very, very unpleasant truth, it’s a call for legislation,” Sen. John Moorlach, R-Orange County, lamented.

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.

Several amendments have been made to the bill since its inception due to concerns from publishing and broadcasting groups who feared 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 text formerly read until earlier this week.

Pro-life groups have naturally spoken out against the legislation.

“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,” said Lila Rose, president of Live Action. “If this bill becomes law in California, Planned Parenthood could attempt to pass similar bans all over the country.”

“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,” David Daleiden, whose undercover videos were the motivation for the bill, also opined in a statement.

Similar dissent was expressed on Wednesday as A.B. 1671 came up for a vote.

Sen. Joel Anderson, R-El Cajon, remarked that the legislation was crafted to “protect an industry that destroys life” and that lawmakers were “rushing to ensure that [abortion facilities] can operate in secrecy.”

But Planned Parenthood praised the bill’s passage and urged Gov. Brown to sign the measure.

“If we’re going to protect the right to abortion, we must protect the privacy and safety of medical providers,” Kathy Kneer, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said in a statement. “We worked hard to craft a bill that balances the rights of privacy and the rights of free speech.”

Brown, a Roman Catholic, has 30 days to sign or veto the legislation.

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