California Makes it Illegal for Doctors to Disagree with Politicians

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Conformity of thought is now required whether it is online, on college campuses, or, if you are in California, in a physician-patient relationship.

PayPal recently introduced a $2,500 fine for anyone involved in “the sending, posting, or publication of any messages, content, or materials” that — in “PayPal’s sole discretion” — “promote misinformation.”

After a firestorm of criticism, PayPal withdrew the policy, claiming the whole thing was a misunderstanding and was not official policy — hardly a convincing explanation from a site with a history of banning those it considers politically incorrect.

But California physicians have had no such relief.

Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed California Assembly Bill 2098, making it the first state to attempt to censor what physicians can say about COVID-19 to their patients. This is a dangerous, and likely unconstitutional, effort that other states must resist.

The statute instructs that “It shall constitute unprofessional conduct for a physician and surgeon to disseminate misinformation or disinformation related to COVID-19, including false or misleading information regarding the nature and risks of the virus, its prevention and treatment; and the development, safety, and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.”

California law requires the Medical Board of California to take action — up to and including license revocation — against any licensed physician charged with unprofessional conduct. But under the First Amendment, content-based speech regulation by government entities is presumptively unconstitutional and may be justified only if the government proves that it is narrowly tailored to serve compelling state interests.

A 2018 Supreme Court case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, held that professional speech — speech by licensed practitioners based on their expert knowledge and judgment — is protected by the First Amendment.

The court, though, did suggest that regulations of professional conduct that incidentally burden speech might be allowed. Speech that is part of the practice of medicine has historically been subject to reasonable licensing and regulation by states.

Read the full article at the New York Post.