In Brief

Crisis pregnancy centers, New Jersey clash over claim of deceptive advertising

By: - April 20, 2023 7:16 pm

About 200 people rallied against abortion outside the Statehouse in Trenton on June 25, 2022. (Photo by Amalie Hindash for the New Jersey Monitor)

A coalition of crisis pregnancy centers is locked in a legal battle with New Jersey over a consumer alert the state issued in December warning the public that they’re run by anti-abortion advocates who masquerade as abortion providers in order to deter the procedure.

Attorney Eileen S. Den Bleyker said that while the centers are “life-affirming,” the alert was a “misinformed and unwarranted assault” based on “speculative accusations” rather than any investigation or consumer complaints. 

After Attorney General Matt Platkin issued the alert, Den Bleyker filed public records requests for documentation supporting Platkin’s claims that the centers engage in deceptive marketing, typically don’t employ licensed medical professionals or follow medical ethics rules and standards of care, and may provide false or misleading information about abortion.

The office denied the records requests as “improper and overbroad” while also saying no complaints against the centers exist, according to the lawsuit Den Bleyker filed in state Superior Court in February. She wants a judge to compel the state to produce records showing why the consumer alert was issued. A hearing in the case is set for Tuesday in Mercer County.

Den Bleyker represents seven pregnancy centers comprising the NJ Consortium of Pregnancy Centers. Tax records show she’s also a trustee with Solutions Health and Pregnancy Center in Shrewsbury, which is described on its website as an “abortion clinic alternative.”

Anne O’Connor, an attorney and the consortium’s chief executive officer, said the alert “tarnishes pregnancy centers across the board.” None of the centers in the consortium were investigated nor received complaints, she added.

States shouldn’t issue consumer alerts without a factual basis for doing so, she said.

“If there are centers in New Jersey that are doing any of these terrible things, then we as an industry can hold them accountable or at least try to, but we have no clue where they’re getting this information from,” O’Connor said. “The fact that they’ve been avoiding providing anything makes us feel like there is no factual basis for doing this. This is really more political or agenda-driven. We feel like these centers are being targeted because they are pro-life and they are faith-based.”

Platkin’s spokespeople didn’t respond to a request for comment.

New Jersey has 54 crisis pregnancy centers, with at least one in every county, according to New Jersey Right to Life. Most are religiously affiliated.

O’Connor said they annually serve more than 35,000 women, men, youth, and families, providing free medical services worth almost $2 million. She declined to identify which seven centers are members of the consortium that sued the state, and the complaint doesn’t identify them.

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Dana DiFilippo
Dana DiFilippo

Dana DiFilippo comes to the New Jersey Monitor from WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and the Philadelphia Daily News, a paper known for exposing corruption and holding public officials accountable. Prior to that, she worked at newspapers in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and suburban Philadelphia and has freelanced for various local and national magazines, newspapers and websites. She lives in Central Jersey with her husband, a photojournalist, and their two children.