The Center Square

Activists Demand Ruling on California Law Penalizing Doctors for COVID Views

November 1, 2023

(The Center Square)—The Liberty Justice Center urged the Ninth Circuit Court to issue a judgment against a California law, which will be repealed at the beginning of 2024 but still threatens doctors with suspension of their medical licenses for spreading what the state has deemed is COVID-19 information outside of state-defined “consensus.”

 Under AB 2098, the Medical Board of California was granted the power to revoke the license of doctors who share any information with a patient that is contrary to the state-defined “contemporary scientific consensus” on COVID-19. The law focused on “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.” A new law, signed into law by governor Gavin Newsom in October, invalidates this power beginning on January 1, 2024. Until then, however, doctors can technically still be punished for COVID-19 dissent.

“I am delighted that we will no longer be threatened with license suspension for speaking to our patients honestly,” said plaintiff Dr. Mark McDonald in a public statement. “I’m still hoping, though, that there will be a court ruling, because it would be wonderful to have a legal precedent to stop this from happening again.”

An injunction was issued in January of 2023 when AB 2098 first took effect, protecting California doctors from any punishment under the new law. While LJC led the case, the American Civil Liberties Union filed an amicus brief against the law, calling it a “blunt instrument.”

Liberty Justice Center filed a new brief with the Ninth Circuit court on October 31 arguing the case is not “anticipatorily moot” due to the repeal because the case provides “‘an opportunity to decide’ an important recurring issue.”

“We should celebrate the repeal of Assembly Bill 2098, but we shouldn’t view it as the end of the story,” said Liberty Justice Center President Jacob Huebert in a public statement. “Regulations that target and censor ‘misinformation’ as this law did present a growing threat to freedom. The Ninth Circuit Court has the opportunity to provide a check against such abuses in the future by upholding First Amendment rights in this case.”