When Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) signed a bill into law Friday that would criminalize the recording and distribution of private conversations with health care providers, he handed a victory to the Planned Parenthood-spurred quest to target a pro-life group that nearly took the abortion giant down.
The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) came under fire from Planned Parenthood after it released undercover videos in 2015 showing the abortion services provider’s employees discussing the sales of fetal body parts. In response to the videos, Assembly Bill 1671 sought to criminalize such recordings in the future and discourage similar watchdog and whistle blowing activity.
“However, it is clear Planned Parenthood does not want to be held accountable to the public whose taxpayer money it gladly takes by the hundreds of millions.”
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“Gov. Brown sent a clear message to anti-abortion extremists that you cannot break the law in California or you will be held accountable,” Kathy Kneer, president of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.
CMP shot back that the politically motivated bill was a blow to the First Amendment and transparency.
“However, it is clear that Planned Parenthood does not want to be held accountable to the public whose taxpayer money it gladly takes by the hundreds of millions, and will even attack freedom of speech and the freedom of the press in order to maintain its own arbitrary levels of secrecy,” David Daleiden, founder of CMP, said in a statement. He added that CMP “never recorded ‘confidential’ communications, so California’s existing recording law and the new distribution provision are simply inapplicable to our work.”
The Times’ editorial board agreed. In an August editorial, they said the new piece of legislation would be “bad for whistleblowers” and could offer serious consequences for journalists.
“Why a healthcare provider merits special protection even when discussing things that don’t involve patient privacy is mystifying,” the board wrote. “Worse, the original version of the bill pushed by Planned Parenthood would have allowed prosecutors to target not just those who made the recordings, but those who shared them online, reported on them or published the transcripts.”
The bill that Brown signed, however, included last-minute changes that offered some protections for journalists from prosecution if they published materials that were given but had no part in authorizing or recording.
After CMP’s videos surfaced in 2015, Planned Parenthood consistently denied it had done anything wrong. It insisted it did not profit from aborted fetal body parts. Congress has convened a select committee to investigate.