- The Washington Times - Friday, September 30, 2016

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law Friday punishing the dissemination of secret recordings with health care providers, in a bid to protect Planned Parenthood after it was rattled by undercover investigations into the alleged sale of fetal body parts from abortions.

Mr. Brown had until Friday to sign or veto AB 1671, which cleared the state legislature last month despite a protracted fight with civil liberties organizations.

The legislation is a direct response to the Center for Medical Progress video series, which captured top Planned Parenthood officials discussing the trade of fetal body parts with undercover investigators. But David Daleiden, who heads the CMP, said the law shouldn’t apply to his work.

“The Center for Medical Progress never recorded ‘confidential’ communications, so California’s existing recording law and the new distribution provision are simply inapplicable to our work,” Mr. Daleiden said in a statement. “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.”

State legislature reached a last-minute compromise to ensure journalists are not punished for publishing materials covertly obtained by others. Under the law, only the person who makes the secret recording would be punished for taking the additional step of disseminating it.

The American Civil Liberties Union of California wrote a letter opposing the bill early on in the legislative process, arguing it is tantamount to a content-based restriction on speech and therefore unconstitutional. The group, which supports abortion rights, continued to oppose AB 1671 even after the compromise was reached.

The bill was also initially opposed by the California Newspaper Publishers Association, which withdrew its opposition only after the compromise was reached, but still refused to endorse the legislation.

Emails obtained by The Washington Times showed officials from Planned Parenthood and the office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris exchanging drafts of the legislation.

Lila Rose, president of Live Action, called Ms. Harris’ involvement in crafting the bill “indefensible.”

“Instead of investigating Planned Parenthood for trafficking in baby body parts, Kamala Harris reportedly has been secretly working with Planned Parenthood to write a law to criminalize the very investigative journalism that exposed those horrific injustices,” Ms. Rose said in a statement.

• Bradford Richardson can be reached at brichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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