Government Watchdog Calls on Ohio Attorney General to Investigate State-Funded Fake Abortion Clinics for Misleading Women

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 5, 2018

Contact: Daniel Stevens, dstevens@campaignforaccountability.org, 202.780.5750

WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog group focused on public accountability, called on Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to investigate two crisis pregnancy centers, Elizabeth’s New Life Center (ENLC) and Heartbeat of Toledo (HT), for engaging in deceptive business practices in violation of Ohio’s Consumer Sales Protection Act (CSPA).

Read the complaint here.

CfA Executive Director Daniel Stevens said, “Crisis pregnancy centers trick unsuspecting pregnant women into believing they are walking into health clinics when they’re really ending up in anti-abortion ‘counseling’ centers.   What’s worse, the state of Ohio, which has a law barring deceptive business practices, is using taxpayer money to support these efforts to con Ohio women.  The Attorney General should immediately investigate these fake clinics and enforce Ohio’s consumer protection laws.”

The Ohio Legislature created the Ohio Parenting and Pregnancy Program in 2013 to distribute funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to nonprofit organizations that promote childbirth.  ENLC and HT operate several crisis pregnancy centers, the aim of which is to counsel pregnant women against seeking abortions, and receive funding though this program.   Based on their grant applications, websites, and marketing materials, it appears both organizations may be violating the CSPA.

ENLC operates seven CPCs, which it calls “Women’s Centers of Ohio,” in and around the Dayton area.  ENLC’s Kettering location, Women’s Center – Kettering, is located directly across the street from an abortion clinic, the similarly named Women’s Med Center of Dayton. ENLC’s state grant application states that it “strategically locates” its CPCs close to abortion clinics in order to dupe abortion-minded women into entering its clinics.  ENLC is affiliated with Heartbeat International, a national network of crisis pregnancy centers that instructs its affiliates to hide their anti-abortion motives.

The website for ENLC’s Women’s Centers, which is separate from ENLC’s main site, is designed to suggest that the organization provides abortion services.  The homepage contains several links to pages about the cost of an abortion as well as information about the abortion pill.  The website buries its disclaimer that ENLC does not provide abortions in tiny text on the bottom of its website and in the middle of a list of fourteen “commitments” to those who might make an appointment on its “About Us” page.

HT similarly operates two CPCs in Toledo under the name Your First Look Women’s Center. HT’s grant application states that it specifically targets “abortion-minded women” using Google ads.  Like ENLC, HT is an affiliate of Heartbeat International, which publishes specific information on its website about how to deceptively target online ads at women seeking abortions.

HT’s website for Your First Look Women’s Centers, which like ENLC’s is separate from its main site, also contains misleading information about obtaining an abortion.  The website pretends to empower women, stating, “You’re fully capable of making your own choices” and outlines the “steps you’ll want to take before scheduling your abortion appointment.”  Only on the bottom of the page in small print does HT reveal that it does not provide abortion services.

The CSPA prohibits businesses from engaging in unfair and deceptive tactics.  Based on their misleading marketing materials, websites, grant applications, and the strategic location of their offices, it is apparent that ENLC and HT are engaging in deceptive practices in violation of the law.

Stevens continued, “Consumer protection laws exist to protect people from deceptive and unfair marketing tactics.  Ohio holds used car dealers to a higher standard of honesty than these so-called health clinics.   Pregnant women are no different from any other consumers – they deserve truthful and reliable information.  Attorney General DeWine should step in and stop this deceitful behavior.”

Campaign for Accountability is a nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.