Capitol Alert

California increases penalties for secret recordings like Planned Parenthood videos

California will increase punishments for secret recordings like the controversial videos that rocked Planned Parenthood last summer after Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed legislation pushed by the health organization.

While it is already illegal to record private conversations without the consent of all parties involved, Assembly Bill 1671 will make it an additional crime for someone who makes such a recording of a health care provider and distributes it.

Brown signed the measure, from Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, without comment.

Its sponsor, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, and other supporters argued that stronger deterrents were needed for groups like the Irvine-based Center for Medical Progress, which released undercover videos last summer that purportedly showed Planned Parenthood officials selling aborted fetuses. Amid a national outcry, the organization countered that the recordings were heavily edited.

“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,” anti-abortion activist David Daleiden, who founded the group, 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.”

Planned Parenthood enjoys widespread support in deeply blue California, but AB 1671 ran into trouble late in the legislative year as liberal allies of the organization raised concerns that overly broad language would catch lawyers and journalists who share material from a whistleblower in criminal activity. A last-minute compromise that narrowed the bill to apply only to those who made the illegal recording allowed it to advance to governor on the final night of session.

Editor’s note: This post was updated at 4:57 p.m. with Daleiden’s comment.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff