The following comes from a September 30 story by Courthouse News Service:
In a move that could potentially see lawsuits against journalists for reporting on undercover footage, California Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday approved a Planned Parenthood-sponsored bill that enhances penalties for secretly recording health care providers.
Although it’s already illegal to record private conversations in the Golden State, Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, convinced the Legislature and governor that stronger laws were needed to prevent undercover sting operations like the one that ensnared Planned Parenthood last summer.
Planned Parenthood sponsored and heavily lobbied for Assembly Bill 1671 after sting videos showing doctors discussing fetal tissue sales with fake buyers were released last year.
The bill creates a new crime and enhances penalties for individuals that secretly record or distribute footage of health care providers. Californians caught secretly recording private conversations with a health care provider could be incarcerated for up to a year under AB 1671.
The California Newspaper Publishers Association officially removed its opposition days before the final vote, but it remains skeptical of the bill’s potential impact to its media clients. Since AB 1671 creates a new crime, journalists and media groups could still be sued for reporting future undercover videos.
In the end, the controversial bill cleared the Senate and Assembly on the final night of the legislative session on a mostly party-line vote. Brown signed the bill without comment Friday.
Critics claim AB 1671 will likely be challenged by free-speech activists because it protects a specific industry – Planned Parenthood – and amounts to content-based regulation of speech.