Sacramento, CA – Yesterday, Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan’s (D-Orinda) bill, AB 1356, passed off the Assembly Floor with a party line vote of 59-17.
Sponsored by Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, the bill strengthens current laws which prohibit the sharing of personal information and targeting of patients and providers online. It also increases fines and penalties for attacking patients and providers at reproductive health clinics and strengthens the FACE Act. AB 1356 also adds an important new protection — police officer training to handle these often-fraught confrontations.
“These law-abiding patients and providers are simply seeking their basic right to access and provide healthcare,” said Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan. “They face terrifying confrontations with extremist protestors who both target them in person and persistently harass them online. This harassment threatens patients’ health and security, and infringes on their constitutional rights.”
The FACE Act and other laws protecting reproductive health clinics were last updated in 2002. Since then, social media and enhanced phone-camera technology, combined with emboldened anti-abortion extremists, have become a major threat to reproductive health care access. Protestors — well-funded and undeterred by fines – return day after day to harass and intimidate patients and providers. They post identifying information on social media and extremist websites, subjecting providers to serious security threats. Current law falls short when confronting these threats that are compounded by modern technology. AB 1356 meets head-on this pressing need to bring our laws into the 21st century.
“The priority at Planned Parenthood is to ensure patients can safely access the sexual and reproductive healthcare services they need. Yet, despite existing laws, California’s reproductive health care clinics, including Planned Parenthood and independent clinics, continue to face serious protest and anti-abortion extremist activity that threatens the safety of patients, providers, staff, and volunteers and interferes with health center operations,” said Jodi Hicks, CEO/President of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California. “AB 1356 is an important step towards strengthening reproductive health center security laws and helping keep patients and providers safe.”
Penalties for attacking patients at clinics and doxing providers online currently carry low fines and minimal penalties. These minimal penalties are simply not enough to dissuade extremist protestors whose goal is to prevent people from receiving essential health services. Law enforcement is often unprepared to handle these daily confrontations. Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan worked closely with Planned Parenthood and its affiliates to carefully craft AB 1356 as a comprehensive bill that addresses all aspects of the many threats that clinics and patients face.
Coauthors of the bill include Assemblymembers Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters), Boerner Horvath (D – Oceanside), Cervantes (D-Corona), Friedman (D-Glendale), Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), Carrillo (D -Los Angeles), Levine (D-San Rafael), and Blanca Rubio (D-West Covina).
The bill now moves to the California State Senate for further action.