April 23, 2024 News

Watchdog Asks Idaho Attorney General to Investigate Crisis Pregnancy Center for Deceptive Practices


Contact: Michael Clauw, mclauw@campaignforaccountability.org, 202.780.5750

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a non-profit watchdog group, filed a complaint with Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador requesting an investigation into whether Sage Women’s Center (Sage), an anti-choice ministry, has violated the Idaho Consumer Protection Act and state law prohibiting misrepresentation by falsely claiming consumers’ sensitive healthcare data is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Protection Accountability Act (HIPAA). The letter is one of five complaints CfA has sent alleging violations by so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs) across the country, highlighting similar abuses in New Jersey, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

CfA Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “Women seeking reproductive healthcare shouldn’t have to fear ministries like the Sage Women’s Center may be deceiving them into sharing their personal data under the misguided belief their information is being used to provide healthcare services. Attorney General Labrador should investigate this matter and hold Sage and its leadership accountable.” 

Read CfA’s Complaint.

Sage, located in Twin Falls, Idaho, is part of a network of thousands of CPCs affiliated with Care Net and Heartbeat International—multi-million-dollar organizations that intentionally target women searching for legitimate abortion care providers to “save babies” from abortion. Sage is not registered as a health facility in Idaho, nor does it list medical staff on its website.

Nevertheless, Sage presents itself in many ways as a traditional medical clinic, advertising “clinic services” and using an appointment process that mimics those used by many doctors’ offices. Sage’s website also asserts it follows “all HIPPA [sic] laws regarding client confidentiality”—suggesting clients’ personal health information is protected under HIPPA.

Although HIPAA is relatively narrow in protecting the electronic transmission of health information for the purpose of medical billing, it has become consumer shorthand for confidentiality of medical data. Sage appears to exploit this misconception, peppering its website with privacy assurances invoking HIPAA. On its page targeting students, for example, Sage advertises “[y]our visit and information will always be kept private in accordance with HIPPA [sic] laws and regulations.”

It is also unclear whether and to what extent Sage shares the data it collects. Other inquiries into how CPCs use the data they collect have been stymied. For instance, despite pledging to respond to a letter from several senators requesting information about its data practices, Heartbeat International, through counsel, declined to explain exactly how and with whom it shares data.

CfA’s complaint alleges Sage’s apparently false pledges of confidentiality appear to violate Idaho’s consumer protection statute as well as state law prohibiting intentional misrepresentation.

Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “Tricking women into believing their sensitive health information will be kept confidential by claiming it is HIPAA covered when it is not, isn’t just despicable, it’s deceptive in a way that likely violates the law. Attorney General Labrador should not hesitate to take on those who prey on women and minors with disingenuous claims of confidentiality.”

Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, 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.