Washington state ends investigation of pro-life pregnancy centers; no charges filed

An examination room at the Pregnancy Resource Center of Metro Richmond, located in Richmond, Virginia.
An examination room at the Pregnancy Resource Center of Metro Richmond, located in Richmond, Virginia. | The Christian Post

Washington state has ended its investigation into a pair of faith-based pro-life pregnancy care centers and will not press charges for consumer fraud.

The office of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson sent a letter last week to attorneys representing Obria Group and Obria Medical Clinics PNW regarding a probe that began in 2022.

Assistant Attorney General Heidi Anderson, author of the letter, stated that while the Consumer Protection Division "does not issue formal notice to a target when it closes an investigation,” state officials were “making an exception in this instance.”

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“[T]he Division closed its investigation into the potential Consumer Protection Act violations set forth in the May 19, 2022 Civil Investigative Demands (the CIDs) issued to Obria Group and Obria Medical Clinics PNW (collectively, Obria) and in related third-party CIDs issued in 2022 to certain of Obria’s vendors,” wrote Anderson.

“No further responses to the CIDs, or those issued to Obria’s vendors, are necessary. No inference should be drawn from the Division’s decision not to pursue litigation and to close its investigation.”

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Lincoln Wilson, who helped represent Obria, said in a statement Tuesday he is “pleased” that “Washington’s attorney general has ceased his unlawful investigation into our clients.”

“We look forward to a ruling from the court confirming that the attorney general unlawfully targeted and harassed these clinics because of their pro-life stance,” Wilson added.

“The Constitution protects Obria medical clinics, and all other pro-life organizations, to freely speak their beliefs, exercise their faith, and continue compassionately serving women and couples facing difficult pregnancy circumstances.”

In May 2022, Ferguson’s office issued separate Civil Investigative Demands to the two pro-life pregnancy care centers, alleging that the two groups engaged in possible violations of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act, which outlaws deceptive or unfair commerce activity.

The organizations filed a lawsuit last November against Ferguson in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, Tacoma Division, accusing him of engaging in “unreasonable civil investigative demands” and 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 lawsuit alleged. 

“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.”

Ferguson told Bloomberg Law last year that he was “deeply concerned about any effort to deceive pregnant Washingtonians about their reproductive health care options.”

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