A consortium of charitable pregnancy centers in New Jersey have filed suit against the state regarding the Attorney General’s issuance of a “Consumer Alert” on December 7, 2022.
The pregnancy centers claim that the consumer alert unfairly tarnishes their reputation and disregards the valuable services the centers offer at no charge to thousands of women and their families each year. The lawsuit demands copies of the documentation that the Attorney General and Consumer Affairs Director possessed when making certain statements in the Alert that the Consortium asserts are misleading and misrepresent how pregnancy centers in New Jersey operate.
Immediately after the Alert was issued, Eileen S. Den Bleyker, Esq., an attorney representing the Consortium, requested copies of the documents supporting the Consumer Alert’s claims under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and the common law, and continued to pursue these records for over four months. No documentation for the statements was forthcoming from the State, who asserted the request was improper.
Due to the State’s denial of access to records, on February 27, 2023, on behalf of the Consortium and herself, Den Bleyker filed a Verified Complaint and Order to Show Cause requesting the records custodians be compelled to search for and produce the requested records. A hearing was held on April 25 in the Superior Court of New Jersey Law Division, Mercer County.
“I believe the Consumer Alert is a misinformed and unwarranted assault on the charitable work these nonprofit organizations have provided to women and families in our community for more than 30 years,” said Den Bleyker, representing the Consortium. “To date, the State has failed to produce any complaints against pregnancy centers that led to the issuance of the Alert nor any documentation that pregnancy centers in New Jersey are operating with anything less than best practices. Yet, the Consumer Alert suggests otherwise, with speculative accusations.”
“I would like to see the factual basis for the statements that were made,” Den Bleyker added. “I do not believe there are any problems in how pregnancy centers operate in New Jersey. If the Attorney General or Division of Consumer Affairs has identified even one isolated problem, then the Consortium wants to know what and where it is, so that we can address it. If there is no documentation, then I question the purpose of issuing an Alert at all; especially since its effect is to undermine the legitimacy and work of pregnancy centers who are defined in the Alert based on their viewpoint.”
The NJ Consortium of Pregnancy Centers is a group of life-affirming, non-profit organizations providing women facing unexpected pregnancies with free consultations, medical confirmation of pregnancy and parenting preparation with material aid. Pregnancy centers in New Jersey provide free services and ongoing support valued at more than $3 million to more than 35,000 women, men, youth, and families every year. This includes almost $2 million in free medical services provided by licensed and credentialed medical professionals.