California Enacts Law Penalizing Secret Recordings at Planned Parenthood

California governor Jerry Brown just signed into law A.B. 1671, which would punish the dissemination of secret recordings with health care providers. The bill was sponsored and lobbied by Planned Parenthood in response to the videos released by the Orange County-based Center for American Progress last summer. It is reported that the bill was intended to protect them after the scandal involving the organization’s alleged sale of fetal body parts from abortions.

Last year, the Center for American Progress released a video featuring high-ranking Planned Parenthood employees haggling over prices for fetal specimens as well as describing altering abortion procedures to obtain more intact fetal body parts for tissue procurement agencies. The video has been alleged as fake by Planned Parenthood, but spread like wildfire on the internet.

Because it is already illegal in the state of California to record someone without consent, the bill had been opposed by many civil liberties groups. The ACLU of California wrote a letter opposing the bill early in the legislative process, arguing that it was unconstitutional because it was a content-based restriction on speech.

Patient Recordings of Doctors Visits

The state of California, unlike other states, has a “two-party consent” law.  This means that it is a crime to record or eavesdrop on any confidential communication, including a private conversation or telephone call, without the consent of all parties to the conversation. See Cal. Penal Code § 632. However, the statute only applies to “confidential communications,” which means conversations that people have a reasonable expectation to privacy (ie. doctors offices).  Conversations that can be overheard publicly can be recorded without two-party consent since people arguably do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in public.

There are a number of reasons you may want to record a conversation with your doctor. Most patients cannot remember the whole conversation, and want to understand a diagnosis, or remember medication directions. However, even as to patient-doctor conversations, you must still get permission from the healthcare provider to record in the state of California. Health care visits are confidential, and recording a conversation without permission would be a violation of the state’s Penal Code. Additionally, there are HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act) concerns, since HIPPA requires the protection and confidential handling of protected health information.

San Diego County Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are a patient wanting to document your visit in California and do not have permission to record the conversation, you should instead document the conversation in writing. The Law Office of David M. Boertje offers aggressive and competent legal services and will zealously defend your constitutional rights. If you have been charged with a violation of California Penal Code § 632, do not hesitate to contact our office today. Initial consultations are free and confidential.         

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