A group of California doctors sued Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) over a COVID-19 “misinformation” law and just revealed that they are prepared to take that legal challenge all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary, according to the Washington Examiner.
They argue that the law is vague and unconstitutional, has a censorious and chilling effect on free speech, could be too easily adapted to other aspects of the medical field, and places their licenses and livelihoods at risk.
Law targets doctors who share “misinformation” on COVID-19
At issue here is California’s AB-2098, which was signed into law by Gov. Newsom in September 2022 and was set to go into effect on Jan. 1 but was blocked from doing so after a judge agreed to issue a preliminary injunction against the measure.
The law heralds the “safety and efficacy” of COVID-19 vaccines and declares that the “spread of misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines has weakened public confidence and placed lives at serious risk,” and further asserts that “some of the most dangerous propagators of inaccurate information regarding the COVID-19 vaccines are licensed health care professionals.”
It also denoted that “physicians who engage in the dissemination of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation or disinformation risk losing their medical license” and that the legislature had declared “health misinformation” — information that contradicts the prevailing “scientific consensus” — to be a “public health crisis” that must be addressed.
Therefore, “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.”
An over-reliance on “scientific consensus”
Aaron Kheriaty and four other doctors in California filed suit against Gov. Newsom over the law and alleged that it violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, according to Fox News. A district judge agreed that the law was “unconstitutionally vague” and issued a temporary injunction to preliminarily block the law from taking effect.
Kheriaty told the outlet that his group was ready to take the legal fight “all the way to the top,” meaning the Supreme Court, to permanently block the state’s reliance on ambiguous and vague “scientific consensus” that could be altered to mean anything in the future and has a “chilling effect” on free speech and violates the due process rights of medical professionals.
“We explained in our declarations that we’re still asked advice from patients frequently on COVID-related matters — masking, for example. Parents may ask me if that mask seems to be exacerbating their child’s anxiety disorder,” he told Fox News. “This is a good idea to explain situations clinically in which we could potentially be impacted by this law.”
The law “has a chilling effect on physicians,” the doctor continued. “If physicians aren’t sure whether what they’re about to say violates the law, then they’re just going to read from a script prepared by the California Department of Public Health.”
Hope to prevent dangerous precedent from being set
With regard to Gov. Newsom backing the law, Kheriaty told Fox News, “I think the governor was worried about this law when he signed it, and I think he was worried about the constitutionality of it.
Indeed, the governor’s office has already signaled that it won’t appeal the preliminary injunction that was put in place, though the state will continue to try and defend the law on its merits as the case proceeds through the judicial process — and that is precisely why the doctors are willing to take the fight up to the Supreme Court to prevent the law from setting a dangerous precedent.
“Even if the current medical board is not inclined to go after me for my opinions on COVID, using this law, a future medical board might,” Kheriaty said.
He added, “If the law would have stood and there were other areas of controversy within medicine where the state had particular interests that they wanted to advance, it would certainly set a strong precedent for the legislature to either amend that law, take out the word ‘COVID’ and change it to whatever any medical issue or to pass an additional law that applies to whatever.”