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Did Democratic State Rep. Brian Sims Break The Law Videotaping A Pro-Life Protester?

AP Photo

Pennsylvania Democratic State Rep. Brian Sims thought it his duty to videotape and harass a pro-life woman protesting against abortion outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in his district, repeatedly telling the unnamed woman he had the same constitutional right to film as she did to protest. While Americans have the right to record protesters in Pennsylvania, the state also has a strict a two-party consent state, meaning even in public both parties involved in a conversation must give consent to be audio or video recorded. At various points in the video, Rep. Sims indicates he wants to have a conversation, to each time the women says no and does not give permission to record. 


As seen in the video, which has the caption, "Push back against Planned Parenthood protestors, PLEASE! They prey on young women, they use white privilege, & shame. They’re racist, classist, bigots who NEED & DESERVE our righteous opposition. Push back, please," Rep. Sims harasses the "old white lady" as he says and tells her "shame on you" for standing against abortion. He asks her if she has done anything else for children that day. The woman buries her face and tries to get away from Rep. Sims. 

At approximately 4:08 the woman begins to leave the vicinity of the Planned Parenthood area and Sims says, "Actually let's keep walking down the block. We can talk about this. We can talk about your Christian faith, about how your Christian faith believes in shaming people." The woman clearly does not want to talk and says "Get out of my way" and "get your camera out of my face" indicating she does not consent to the conversation he wants to have nor to being recorded in public. Sims says, "no, no" and continues to berate the woman for nearly 9 minutes. 

According to the ACLU, in Pennsylvania "You have a right to capture images in public places, but you don't always have a right to record what people say. Pennsylvania's Wiretap Law makes it illegal to record private conversations - which can include conversations in public places - without the consent of all parties to the conversation."  However, you legally can record protesters in public spaces. 


But, given the fact the woman in the video was leaving the Planned Parenthood area, was not spouting anti-abortion rhetoric at the time Rep. Sims asked to "Talk", and she declined Rep. Sims the right to record their conversation, a good attorney might be able to sue Rep. Sims for breaking PA's wiretap law. 

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