‘Crisis pregnancy centers’ who oppose abortion questioned by US Senate Democrats

Seven U.S. Senate Democrats on Tuesday questioned a prominent Ohio-based anti-abortion group about its practice of collecting personal information from patients seeking abortions.

So-called crisis pregnancy centers – facilities that often reflect the aesthetics of abortion providers but in reality provide services to discourage abortion — collect sensitive data from patients. This presents troubling new complications as states move to increase penalties for abortions after the US Supreme Court overturned 49-year-old precedent guaranteeing a right to procedure, the letter said.

Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren led the letter to Jor-El Godsey, president of Heartbeat International, an anti-abortion group that runs more than 2,000 crisis pregnancy centers across the United States.

Six other Democratic senators, including Ron Wyden of Oregon and Cory Booker of New Jersey, also signed the letter.

In a written statement Tuesday afternoon, Godsey did not address any of the privacy concerns raised by the senators, but said, “What we are doing is safe, secure and legal.”

“This is naked politics intended not to help women but to influence elections,” he said. “This is clearly a stunt designed to appease the power brokers of Big Abortion.”

Exploited by anti-abortion groups, the practices of crisis pregnancy centers are to “lure” patients considering abortion who think they can obtain the procedure at these centers, the lawmakers wrote. The centers collect personal information, including home addresses, sexual history and test results, the senators said.

Because the facilities aren’t actually medical providers, they aren’t governed by medical confidentiality laws, lawmakers say.

Next Level CMS, the data management system “powered by” Heartbeat, maintains privacy standards that comply with federal privacy laws, according to its website.

But as states move to restrict access to abortion in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, sensitive information could “be used to endanger women’s health and freedom of choice, and expose them and their healthcare providers to criminal sanctions.” “, said the senators.

A Texas law, for example, allows third parties to sue — and win a cash reward — anyone who helps a patient get an abortion.

“Heartbeat International – which explicitly opposes abortion rights – appears to be able to collect a significant amount of personal information from women about their pregnancies and their potential plans for managing their care,” the letter states. “But there is no legal obligation to keep this information confidential, or to keep it out of the hands of abortion bounty hunters.”

The senators posed a series of questions to Godsey and demanded an answer by October 3.

Questions included what information Heartbeat International collects from patients, what privacy standards the organization is subject to, what internal guidelines were in place to protect sensitive patient information, and whether law enforcement had ever sought individual data. .

A larger group of Democratic senators last week asked the US Department of Health and Human Services to strengthen privacy protections for aborted patients.

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