California Bill Will Trample Free Speech To Protect Planned Parenthood

Officially known as Assembly Bill 1671, the measure is under fire from not just supporters of the pro-life movement, but also stalwart liberals who view it as a potential attack on free speech. Indeed, the threat perceived to First Amendment rights by the measure is so real to it that the ACLU has condemned the bill's “potential for real harm”:

“But the publishers association, which lobbies on behalf of media groups including the Associated Press and the Hearst Corporation, and First Amendment advocates are skeptical of the bill's language regarding who can be liable for distribution. Journalists who didn't participate in the illegal recording but were given a copy and simply passed it on to their superiors could be liable under AB 1671.

‘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 proposal states.

Adam Schwartz, senior counsel with the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the bill deals with two important fundamental American rights — right to privacy and a free press.

‘When these two rights come into conflict, it's important that we write laws with a scalpel,' Schwartz said. ‘The EFF is opposed because we think that it could be applied to punish a journalist who had nothing to do with making an unlawful recording.'

The American Civil Liberties Union of California is also opposed to the Planned Parenthood bill, citing the proposal's ‘potential for real harm.'

The opponents take issue with how the bill specifically criminalizes the distribution of communication with a health care provider. Targeting a specific area of speech amounts to content-based regulation of speech and is unconstitutional, the ACLU claims.

‘The same rationale for punishing communications of some preferred professions or industries could as easily be applied to other communications [such as] law enforcement, animal testing labs, gun makers, lethal injection drug producers, the petroleum industry and religious sects,' ACLU legislative director Kevin Baker wrote in an opposition letter sent to Gomez.

The Senate Appropriations Committee's Aug 8 analysis of the proposal also notes that the health provider clause ‘raises a number of issues.' The analysis is used by committee members to prepare for upcoming votes — a de facto legislative cheat sheet.

‘Consequently, to the extent this measure contains language that could be challenged as unconstitutional, this bill could result in potentially significant costs associated with litigation, both to the court and to the Attorney General,' the analysis states.”

Source: All Gov



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