April 23, 2024 News

Watchdog Group Asks New Jersey 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 New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin requesting an investigation into whether Today’s Choice Women’s Center (Today’s Choice), an anti-choice ministry, has violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and state common law prohibiting misrepresentation by deceptively claiming consumers’ healthcare information 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 Idaho, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

CfA Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “Today’s Choice falsely suggests to clients it is bound by federal law to keep their personal health data confidential, knowing this is untrue. No consumer should have to fear her sensitive health information might be shared without her knowledge. Attorney General Platkin should investigate whether Today’s Choice’s deceptive pledges of confidentiality violate state law.”

Read CfA’s Complaint.

Today’s Choice, located in Newton, New Jersey, 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. Today’s Choice does not appear in state medical directories or have any medical staff listed on its website.

Nevertheless, Today’s Choice presents itself in many ways as a traditional medical clinic, advertising “medical consultations” and “telehealth appointments.” In a Google business profile, the organization promotes “free and confidential screenings” conducted by “licensed medical professionals.” Today’s Choice also asserts its clients’ personal health information is protected under 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. Today’s Choice appears to exploit this misconception, claiming to be “fully HIPAA compliant.” Yet, tucked away in its “Notice of Privacy Practices,” Today’s Choice reveals it “does not engage in any transactions covered under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)” and its privacy practices are “voluntarily undertaken.”

It is also unclear whether and to what extent Today’s Choice 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 Today’s Choice’s false claims of HIPAA confidentiality violate New Jersey’s consumer protection statute and 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 Platkin 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.