National Review

Newsom Repeals California Law Prohibiting Doctors from Sharing Unapproved Covid Information

October 2, 2023

(National Review)—California governor Gavin Newsom on Monday signed a bill repealing a law prohibiting physicians from sharing information with their patients that contradicts the prevailing scientific sentiment on Covid-19.

The initial law, which Newsom signed in September 2022, violated doctors’ First Amendment rights to free speech and Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process of law, critics say. The text of the bill includes a clause explaining that “physicians who engage in the dissemination of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation or disinformation risk losing their medical license.”

Indeed, under the terms of that law, California’s Medical Board — which is not solely composed of doctors — was authorized to punish physicians who share unauthorized information with their patients. The bill classified such material as “false information that is contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care.”

When Newsom signed the bill into law, he expressed some misgivings, writing that he was “concerned about the chilling effect other potential laws may have on physicians and surgeons who need to be able to effectively talk to their patients about the risks and benefits of treatments for a disease that appeared in just the last few years.” Despite those concerns, he wrote, he was “confident that discussing emerging ideas or treatments including the subsequent risks and benefits does not constitute misinformation or disinformation under this bill’s criteria.”

The New Civil Liberties Alliance, a non-profit organization that files both original lawsuits and amicus curiae briefs against government actions it believes to be unconstitutional, brought a motion for preliminary injunction against the law, which was granted in January, and a motion for summary judgment on September 29. In a press release, the NCLA called the repeal a “great victory for its brave clients, who stood up to this outrageous attack on the First Amendment.”

This is not the only notable veto or repeal Newsom has made recently. On September 22, the California governor rejected a bill requiring judges to consider whether a parent affirms their child’s gender identity when making custody and visitation decisions. He also issued a veto against a bill that would have prevented state prisons from sharing inmates’ immigration status with federal authorities that same day. On September 30, he nixed a bill that would have granted striking workers unemployment benefits, saying now is “not the time to increase costs or incur this sizable debt.”

Newsom’s raft of recent vetoes has fed speculation that he will run for president either in 2024 or 2028, as has his debate-night appearance on Fox News and his upcoming debate with Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis.