September 20, 2022

Wyden, Colleagues Demand Answers about the Collection and Potential Disclosure of Women’s Reproductive Health Information

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden today joined Senate colleagues to call on Heartbeat International, an anti-abortion organization that supports thousands of crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) across the country, to answer questions about its collection and use of women’s personal data, including sensitive health care information.

 “Heartbeat International – which is explicitly opposed to abortion rights – appears to be in a position to collect a significant amount of personal information from women about their pregnancies and potential plans for managing their care, but it is not under any legal obligation to maintain the confidentiality of this information, or keep it out of the hands of abortion bounty hunters,” Wyden and colleagues wrote to the President of Heartbeat International, Jor-El Godsey.

“We fear that, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that stripped women of their right to an abortion, this information may be used to put women’s health and freedom to choose in jeopardy, and to put them and their health care providers at risk of criminal penalties,” Wyden and colleagues warned.

Heartbeat International’s vision “is to make abortion unwanted today and unthinkable for future generations.” To accomplish that goal, the organization has invested in a data collection system to keep track of personal information, including individuals’ names, addresses, phone numbers, and reproductive health information. CPCs and similar organizations are not legitimate medical facilities and therefore are not subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), raising significant privacy concerns.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and the introduction of a national abortion ban by Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Wyden and colleagues expressed concern about the sensitive health information Heartbeat International and its affiliate CPCs collect from women who believe they can seek legitimate abortion and reproductive health care services at these facilities.

Wyden is also the co-lead of the My Body, My Data Act, which would create the strongest-ever protections for reproductive health data.

The letter was led by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Alongside Wyden, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Cory Booker, D-N.J., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

The text of the letter is here.