California AB 1671 criminalizes undercover sting videos

planned parenthood

The “Planned Parenthood” bill in California, AB 1671, would criminalize showing illegally obtained video footage, including by third-party sources, journalists pursuing a legitimate story, and anyone else. This overreaching bill is in response to the undercover Planned Parenthood videos about fetal research and abortion, which got millions of views, caused a spiked in threats against the organization, and forced one doctor to move because of death threats.

What happened to Planned Parenthood was indeed horrible. And Anti-Vaxxers have jumped on this saying the law, if passed, means their movie Vaxxed couldn’t be shown. Yes, I know, who wants to be on the same side as Anti-Vaxxers in a fight?  In this case, lots of people and organizations should be, because the anti-Vaxxers are correct. If AB 1671 passes, their movie couldn’t be shown in California because it has undercover recordings in it.

AB 1671 is so draconically worded that journalists who posted a recording given to them by an anonymous source, not knowing it was illegally recorded, can be prosecuted, as can whistle-blowers.

Plus, the bill only applies to undercover recordings made at health-care providers. If the threat is so horrible, why doesn’t it apply to all such recordings. This reeks of special-interest lobbying, and the bill itself is onerous and if passed, will have a rough time surviving the inevitable lawsuits against it.

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.

Media groups say the bill, which is on the verge of clearing the Legislature, could have a “chilling effect” on free speech and set the state up for First Amendment court battles.

The bill would criminalize publishing undercover video footage of “health care providers” and subject third parties, including journalists, to penalties for reporting and distributing the illegally recorded footage.