Two Christian pro-life nonprofits have sued Washington Attorney General Robert Ferguson, accusing his office of unlawfully investigating their private records.
Obria Group and My Choices, which does business as Obria Medical Groups PNW, filed the lawsuit on Wednesday in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, Tacoma Division.
The complaint alleges that Ferguson has been engaging in “unreasonable civil investigative demands” against the two nonprofits, forcing them to provide “privileged or irrelevant materials to advance an investigation that is not based on a complaint or other reason to suspect unlawful activity.”
“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.
“Defendant 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.”
The nonprofits have asked the 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.”
The two faith-based nonprofits are being represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative law firm that has successfully argued cases before the United States Supreme Court.
“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,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tim Garrison in a statement released Thursday.
For his part, Ferguson confirmed to Bloomberg Law that his office is indeed investigating the nonprofits, adding that he is “deeply concerned about any effort to deceive pregnant Washingtonians about their reproductive health care options.”
Last month, the Sisters of Life secured an agreement from the state of New York that government officials would not seek “sensitive information” about the clients they serve at their pro-life pregnancy care centers.
The agreement came after the Sisters had sued state officials last year when a statute directed the New York State Department of Health to thoroughly investigate the pro-life centers due to their refusal to provide or refer women to abortion services.
“We are grateful for this victory, which protects our right to continue to uphold and defend the beauty and strength of women,” said Sr. Maris Stella, vicar general of the Sisters of Life, in a statement last month.
“In over 30 years of serving women in the state of New York, we have learned that what a woman really needs is to be seen, heard, and believed in, which is why we are committed to providing the necessary emotional, practical, and spiritual support for her to flourish.”