Two nonprofits that run crisis pregnancy centers recently filed a lawsuit against the attorney general of Washington state, accusing him of unlawfully and unconstitutionally targeting them because of their pro-life views.
The complaint, filed on Nov. 29 in federal court in Washington, says Attorney General Robert Ferguson is making “unreasonable civil investigative demands” on the Christian nonprofits Obria Group and My Choices mandating “disclosure of privileged or irrelevant materials to advance an investigation that is not based on a complaint or other reason to suspect unlawful activity, and which selectively and unlawfully target Plaintiffs.”
Ferguson‘s probe is seeking to establish whether the nonprofits violated Washington’s Consumer Protection Act.
“Defendant has issued CIDs that demand, for a period now exceeding thirteen years well beyond any statute of limitations, answers to interrogatories and production of documents under the pretense of conducting a civil investigation into ‘possible’ violations of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act relating to the handling of patient data and statements they have made about Abortion Pill Reversal, a service they neither provide or profit from,” the suit alleges.
Alliance Defending Freedom, the religious liberty law firm representing the plaintiff nonprofits, accused Ferguson of “specifically targeted Obria for its advertising of abortion pill reversal, a medical procedure that can save unborn lives by counteracting the effects of abortion drug mifepristone after a woman has taken it. Abortion pill reversal is legal under both federal and Washington law.”
We’re suing Washington State’s AG for conducting an unconstitutional and unlawful investigation into Obria Group and Obria Medical Groups PNW private records.
No organization should be singled out for scrutiny because of their life-affirming views.
— Alliance Defending Freedom (@ADFLegal) November 30, 2023
The lawsuit states that the attorney general’s office “has never cited any complaint or other substantive evidence of wrongdoing to justify his demands but has launched an exploratory probe into the lawful activities, constitutionally protected speech, religious observance, constitutionally protected associations, and nonpublic internal communications and records of two entities that hold a view on a matter of public policy with which he disagrees.”
In a background article about the lawsuit, ADF recounted that Ferguson issued a broad demand from Obria and My Choices in May 2022, looking for patient information dating back to Jan. 1, 2010.
Obria provided over 1,500 pages of documentation in response to the CID last month, but when Ferguson followed up with more demands, the ADF sued him seeking an injunction to block further alleged harassment.
The nonprofits want the federal court to “enjoin enforcement of Defendant’s CIDs so that Plaintiffs may freely speak their beliefs, exercise their faith, associate with like-minded individuals and organizations, and continue to provide services in a caring and compassionate environment to women and men facing difficult pregnancy circumstances.”
ADF Senior Counsel Tim Garrison in a statement on Nov. 30, “Our clients have already expended exorbitant time and financial resources trying to comply with the unreasonable demands made by Washington’s attorney general and we urge the court to swiftly halt his unlawful actions.”
“The lawsuit explains that such unreasonably overbroad, invasive, selective, and burdensome investigative demands violate the pro-life organizations’ rights protected by the First, Fourth, and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and should stop,” the news release further says.
The First Amendment in relation to the suit has to do with the rights of free speech, freedom of religion and to freely assemble.
The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures of personal records, and the 14th Amendment requires equal protection under the law.
In other words, ADF is arguing pro-life pregnancy centers should not be treated differently than Planned Parenthood or other abortion providers.
According to ADF, during an August 2019 press conference, Ferguson said his office had “worked very closely, obviously, with Planned Parenthood” in litigation related to abortion in federal district and appellate courts.
Additionally, Ferguson hosted a press conference and “nodded in agreement as the Washington state director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates falsely stated that pregnancy centers’ ‘sole purpose is to shame people for considering an abortion and share misleading information about pregnancy,'” ADF said.
Obria Group and My Choices, as pro-life medical centers, “provide a variety of services such as: pregnancy testing; pregnancy options counseling; sexually transmitted disease (STD)/sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and referral; ultrasounds to confirm pregnancy, detect fetal heartbeat, determine fetal age, due date, and location of the pregnancy; prenatal care; well-woman examinations” among other services under the direction of a licensed physician, the groups’ lawsuit explains.
In March, Ferguson participated in an “Abortion Provider Appreciation Day” event with Washington’s Democratic U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.
“We are pursuing the strongest reproductive privacy protections in the country. The fight for reproductive justice has never been more urgent,” he said at the time.
ADF noted in its suit that Ferguson is running for governor of Washington and “is making abortion advocacy a primary feature of his campaign.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.