Massachusetts State Senator Shuts Down Pro-Lifer’s Recording of Committee Hearing on Anti-Planned Parenthood Bill

Printed from:

A Massachusetts state senator running a legislative committee hearing this week ordered a pro-lifer to stop video recording during another pro-lifer’s testimony.

The man was running a live feed to the Facebook page of an organization supporting legislation before the committee.

State Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington), co-chairman of the state Legislature’s Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, interrupted J. David Franks, chairman of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, as he was arguing for a bill that would stop state funding for Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts.

Franks had just sharply criticized Planned Parenthood when Friedman challenged a man videotaping the presentation, according to Bill Gillmeister, policy and finance director of the Renew Massachusetts Coalition, which is also supporting the bill.

Gillmeister identified the video recorder as Robert Aufiero.

Below is a transcript of the exchange between the state senator and the man video recording the hearing, based on a brief video posted on Renew Massachusetts Coalition’s Facebook page. The exchange begins with 33 seconds left in the video:

State Senator Cindy Friedman:  Excuse me, are you recording this?
Robert Aufiero:  This is Facebook live. For Renew Mass. Coalition?
State Senator Cindy Friedman:  You’re first of all supposed to ask, um, if it’s O.K.. You are supposed to inform us that it is. And if anybody has an objection, that they are able to state that, and we will not – we will ask you to stop.
Robert Aufiero:  Oh, O.K..

State Senator Cindy Friedman:  Because I ask you to stop. I didn’t know it was happening, I assume you were doing it before?
Robert Aufiero:  Yeah.
State Senator Friedman:  O.K., would you stop?

The video stops at that point.

Chanel Prunier, executive director of the Renew Massachusetts Coalition, said Friedman’s action goes against the point of holding a public meeting.

“This is censorship pure and simple,” Prunier said in a written statement Wednesday, July 17. “This was a public hearing, emphasis on public. My staff was broadcasting on Facebook, so the public at large can be better educated when it comes time to vote. The legislature says it’s transparent, but it seems only when it’s convenient for them.”

State Senator Friedman issued a statement to New Boston Post through a spokesman on Thursday morning, July 18.

“At the start of the hearing, I stated the rules of the committee hearing and notified attendees that if they would like to take audio and video recordings, then they must ask either myself or committee staff for approval,” Friedman said in the written statement. “Unfortunately, the individual representing the Renew Massachusetts Coalition did not abide by those rules and chose to record a video without permission, necessitating me to request that he stop recording.”

Each chamber of the Massachusetts Legislature has a broadcast service that occasionally videotapes legislative committee hearings for later publication on the state Legislature’s web site, typically at the request of a committee chairman. Television stations routinely videotape portions of high-profile committee meetings, but in theory they need the permission of a committee chairman to do that. Most legislative committee meetings aren’t videotaped, however.

Massachusetts’s Open Meeting Law (Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 30A, Section 20, Subsection F) requires that meetings of a “public body” be open to the public and says that anyone can video record it or audio record it after notifying the chairman – but the Massachusetts Legislature has exempted itself from the law.

Here’s the full text of Subsection F:

After notifying the chair of the public body, any person may make a video or audio recording of an open session of a meeting of a public body, or may transmit the meeting through any medium, subject to reasonable requirements of the chair as to the number, placement and operation of equipment used so as not to interfere with the conduct of the meeting. At the beginning of the meeting, the chair shall inform other attendees of any recordings.

Elsewhere, the Open Meeting Law includes in the definition of “public body” every town, city, county, district, and state board, committee, and commission — but “provided, further, that ‘public body’ shall not include the general court or the committees or recess commissions thereof …” (Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 30A, Section 18).

“General Court” is the state’s formal term for the Massachusetts Legislature.

A major difference in the way state law treats most government bodies and legislative committees is that a person who wants to record a municipal board meeting does not need the permission of a board chairman to record. With state legislative committees, though, the permission of the committee chairman is required, since legislative committee meetings aren’t subject to the Open Meeting Law.

The camera incident occurred Tuesday, July 16 during a public hearing for Massachusetts House Bill 1181, which states:  “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no state funds may be made available to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, or to any of its affiliates.”

Franks, the chairman of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, told the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing that supporters of the bill weren’t there to argue against abortion funding in general, but against Planned Parenthood in particular.

“Our argument is that Planned Parenthood is a uniquely bad actor, even amongst the other rough beasts of the abortion industry,” Franks said about 15 seconds before Friedman started questioning the man with the video camera.

Friedman, an ally of Planned Parenthood, “worked with Planned Parenthood to defeat the 1986 referendum that would have allowed Massachusetts to regulate a woman’s right to choose,” according to her web site.


David Franks, Chairman of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, and Debby Dugan, with Renew Massachsuetts Coalition, testifying on HB1181 to Defund Planned Parenthood. Senator Cindy Friedman stopped us from recording saying we didn't have permission even though we had just recorded Kathy Lynch.

Posted by Renew MA Coalition on Tuesday, July 16, 2019