April 23, 2024 News

Watchdog Group Asks Minnesota 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 Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison requesting an investigation into whether Amnion Pregnancy Center (Amnion), an anti-choice ministry, violated the Minnesota Consumer Fraud Act, the Minnesota Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and the prohibition against misrepresentation by suggesting to consumers sensitive health data they share is protected by the Health 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 Idaho, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

CfA Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “For too long, CPCs like Amnion have relied on the guise of a medical setting to deceive women into sharing their personal health information. Attorney General Ellison should investigate whether Amnion has violated the law and if so, hold its leadership accountable.”

Read CfA’s Complaint.

Amnion, located in Burnsville, Minnesota, 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. It is not included in a state directory of health facilities, nor does it list any providers on its website.

Nevertheless, Amnion presents itself in many ways as a traditional medical clinic, advertising “medical consultation,” and including images of people in white medical attire on its website. Amnion’s website also asserts clients’ personal health information is protected by HIPAA.

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. Amnion appears to exploit this misconception, going so far as to instruct clients who believe their data who has been misused to file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services, which has no regulatory authority over CPCs like Amnion.

It is also unclear whether and to what extent Amnion 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 how and with whom it shares data.

CfA’s complaint alleges Amnion’s apparently false pledges of confidentiality may violate Minnesota’s consumer protection statutes as well as a state prohibition against 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 Ellison should not hesitate to take on those who prey on women 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.