California’s controversial COVID-19 misinformation law, which bars doctors from providing “misinformation” or “disinformation” related to COVID-19, is an unprecedented effort by those in power to block doctors from sharing their views on COVID-19 topics, including on vaccines, with their patients, an attorney says. And lawmakers had pivoted the initial bill from its true, intended purpose to be able to pass it.
“This is the first effort to suppress health care practitioners from telling patients what the doctors think,” Jaffe said of the COVID-19 misinformation law in a recent interview with EpochTV’s “Crossroads” program.
“If they get away with this, it’s not going to be the last time they do this ... That’s what we’re battling against,” he added, noting that such impunity could result in similar speech-suppression efforts “for the next pandemic.”
From Jan. 1 until the latest injunction, AB 2098 meant that doctors were able to “be sanctioned for speaking out against the mainstream COVID media,” Jaffe said.
“[Senior Judge William B. Shubb] granted our motion ... for a preliminary injunction stopping the Attorney General and the [California] medical boards from enforcing its Covid Misinformation bill,” he said.
“Today was a very, very good day for physicians’ free speech and health freedom. But tomorrow, we start working on the next battle. No rest for the committed,” he said of the ongoing lawsuit.
It defines misinformation as “false information that is contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care,” and disinformation as “misinformation that the licensee deliberately disseminated with malicious intent or an intent to mislead.”
Lawmakers Pivoted Legislation to Pass itThe original purpose of AB 2098, first proposed in February 2022, was to penalize California doctors who were questioning the COVID-19 vaccines, or promoting the use of ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine in the media and social media, or any other comments not in line with the “consensus.”
“And then what happened is, it became very clear very quickly to the legislature is that you can’t stop doctors from speaking out in public,” Jaffe said.
“There’s no serious person who knows the Constitution is going to say that a medical board can sanction a physician for expressing his views in public. ... In other words, that’s an automatic violation of the First Amendment.”
In order to save the bill, its authors “agreed to gut the bill and abandon the bill’s basic purpose,” the motion stated.
The lawmakers tried to limit the legislation’s scope to only “information provided for the purposes of treatment or advice between a doctor and a patient, in the hopes that that would basically avoid the obvious constitutional problem,” Jaffe told Crossroads.
“It was really the public problem they were trying to address, but they had to give that up,” Jaffe said. “The way the law reads now is, it’s completely ineffective to do what the law was supposed to do, which was to stop these doctors from drowning out the public health authorities.”
The state medical board actually “don’t even need” the law, and if they wanted to, without AB 2098, they could still try to sanction doctors both for their public and private speech, Jaffe told Crossroads. “But they figured, ‘well, let’s make it clear that we can do it.’ That’s their position,” he said in commenting on why the legislation may have been proposed in the first place.