October 21, 2022

Warren, Senators Respond to Heartbeat International About its Lack of Material Responses to Inquiry on Collection and Disclosure of Women’s Reproductive Health Information

Warren and Colleagues Expressed Concerns that Women’s Sensitive Health Care Information May Not Be Safe with Heartbeat and Affiliated Crisis Pregnancy Centers 

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sent a letter to Heartbeat International, following up on their September letter to the organization, which laid out concerns and sought answers about Heartbeat International and its more than 2,000 affiliated crisis pregnancy centers’ (CPCs) collection and use of pregnant people’s personal data, including sensitive health care information. The senators expressed disappointment that Heartbeat’s response did not respond materially to their questions. 

“In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, public concern is rising that ‘the CPC industry is now functioning as surveillance infrastructure for the anti-abortion movement, amassing data that could be used in pregnancy- and abortion-related prosecutions post-Roe.’ For this reason, Congress is actively exploring legislative efforts that would prevent CPCs from engaging in false advertising or misusing the health data of pregnant people who incorrectly believe that such data is required to be kept confidential,” wrote the senators. 

The senators reiterated that their original inquiry stemmed from concerns that while Heartbeat International collects personal and health data from people who contact or visit Heartbeat or its affiliates, it may not be under a legal obligation to keep this information confidential or keep it out of the hands of abortion bounty hunters. The senators note there is an extensive public record indicating that CPCs advertise and market themselves as comprehensive reproductive care providers – when many CPCs do not employ licensed medical professionals or provide referrals for birth control or abortion care and regularly spread false claims about reproductive health care. 

“For this reason, additional information was sought from Heartbeat International regarding precisely what categories of information Heartbeat International collects, whether that information is subject to any medical privacy laws, and what your guidelines and practices are for handling, storing, and disseminating this data. It is disappointing that your response declined to respond materially to this inquiry, and instead merely cited already-public assertions about your organization’s approach to client confidentiality which provides little insight into how Heartbeat and its affiliates actually handle the personal data of pregnant people… the purpose of this inquiry is to gather additional data to better inform ongoing legislative efforts to grant pregnant people basic legal protections that tens of millions of Americans erroneously believe they are already afforded by federal law,” continued the senators. 

“We posed our inquiry to Heartbeat International in the hope that the information requested regarding your data practices could guide our legislative work. We hope you will reconsider your decision not to respond materially to the inquiry for additional information regarding your data practices… CPCs are not above responsible scrutiny and do not, by virtue of their strongly held views, deserve special treatment or to be placed above the law. We will continue our ongoing legislative efforts to ensure that the personal reproductive health care decisions of pregnant people, whatever those decisions may be, remain between those individuals and their medical providers, and can be made with the full protection of law,” concluded the senators.