Jennifer Garner got emotional on Tuesday, Aug. 13, while speaking before a California State Assembly committee about paparazzi harassment and her experience with a mentally ill stalker who she says threatened to harm her unborn child while she was pregnant several years ago.
Garner spoke after Halle Berry, a pregnant mother of one, who talked about her own experiences and stance about the paparazzi in a bid to push legislation that would make it more difficult for photographers to approach children without their parents' permission. Critics say harsher penalties could infringe against free speech and also disrupt news gathering.
The 41-year-old actress shares two daughters aged 7 and 4 and a 17-month-old son with husband and actor Ben Affleck. She referenced their ages during her speech.
"There are violent, mentally ill stalkers, who can now get close to my kids by simply following mobs of photographers and blending in," Garner read from a printed speech in front of the California State Assembly Judiciary Committee.
"Like the very man who threatened to cut the babies out of my belly, who was arrested, waiting behind our daughter's preschool, standing among the throng of paparazzi," she said, her voice wavering. "That man is still in prison but I have no doubt there are others like him still out there and I don't want to make it any easier for them to find and reach my children."
Garner did not name the person. In December 2009, a man was arrested near her and Affleck's oldest daughter's preschool in Los Angeles. Garner had obtained a restraining order against him in 2008, saying in her filing that she was pregnant and feared for the safety of her unborn second child, according to People. The man was found not guilty of charges of felony stalking by reason of insanity and was locked up in a mental institution.
Garner told the California State Assembly Judiciary Committee that she "chose a public life" and understand this meant "sacrifices in terms of privacy" for her job. She said there are typically as many as "15 cars of photographers" outside her and Affleck's home.
"My 17-month-old baby is terrified and cries," she said. "My 4-year-old says, 'Why do these men never smile? Why do they never go away? Why are they always with us?'"
Halle Berry: Paparazzi 'forced me to crash my car into the Four Seasons'
Speaking without reading anything, Berry, who has spoken about the anti-paparazzi bill at the state Capitol before, recalled accidents she suffered that she blamed on the paparazzi.
"When I was pregnant with my daughter, they forced me to crash my car into the Four Seasons Hotel," she said. "They forced me to fall down a flight of stairs at the mall. Jennifer and I are here to say, we aren't just whiny celebrities that many times, people think we are. We're moms, here who are just trying to protect our children. It's not about me -- take my picture. I get it."
Berry, a mother to a 5-year-old daughter, Nahla, is currently expecting her first child with husband Olivier Martinez. She testified that about 15 to 20 paparazzi cars follow her and her child on a daily basis, adding: "At any moment, I feel like a crash could happen and end her life, my life, other innocent passengers driving in their vehicles."
Berry, 46, referenced her 2012 custody battle over Nahla with ex-boyfriend Gabriel Aubry. The actress had tried and failed to obtain legal permission to move with her daughter and Martinez to France, where privacy laws are tighter.
"The paparazzi would say things to her, like, 'Oh, so how do you feel, Nahla? You might not see your father again? How do you feel about that?" Berry said.
After she and Garner spoke, the committee approved an amendment to the bill in question. It dictates that people found guilty of harassing a child because of their parent's employment would receive a maximum sentence of a year in jail -- up from six months -- and specifies that photographing a kid without a parent's permission constitutes harassment. The bill was sent to the Appropriations Committee.