A California bill that would expand punishments for those who secretly record and disseminate conversations with health are providers has been approved by vote by both the state's Assembly and Senate, and awaits the governor's signature.
The bill, which is sponsored by the Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, was most approved by the state Senate on August 31 by a 26-13 vote, and by the state Assembly by a 52-26 vote on the same day.
Though California law already mandates that the act of recording conversations without the consent of all participants is illegal, the new bill (AB 1671) would add punishments for those who disseminate secret recordings of conversations specifically with health care providers.
Supporters of the bill argue that the new measures are necessary to prevent negative backlash to health care providers. Planned Parenthood argues that it faced an increased amount of violence after the Irvine-based Center for Medical Progress released videos purporting to show that Planned Parenthood illegally sells aborted fetal organs.
"With the Internet and the tremendous wildfire nature in which news can be spread now through social media, we need to have a crime against distribution by those in particular who did the illegal recording," chief legal counsel of Planned Parenthood Beth Parker told the Los Angeles Times.
However, the bill was also met with criticism and some were concerned that it may used against journalists and lawyers who are using footage or materials given by another organization or individual.
"Why a healthcare provider merits special protection even when discussing things that don’t involve patient privacy is mystifying," the Los Angeles Times wrote in an editorial on August 31. "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."
"When '60 Minutes' uses a hidden camera and discovers a unique story, it's called outstanding journalism. But when a private citizen does it and unmasks a very, very unpleasant truth, it's a call for legislation," the Sacramento Bee quoted Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) as saying.
If passed, those who are found to have intentionally and secretly recorded a confidential conversation would face up to one year in jail and/or with $2,500 in fines. Disseminating a secret recording of a confidential conversation with a health care provider would also be punishable with up to one year in jail and/or with $2,500 in fines.
Any count of the same crime thereafter for both secretly recording a confidential conversation and disseminating one with a health care provider would be punishable with up to one year in jail and/or with $10,000 in fines.