A “who’s who” of the anti-reproductive health politicians in President Trump’s administration.
A person is known by the company they keep. That’s what the famous Greek fable teller Aesop said, in a more gendered form, more than 2,500 years ago. And it’s still true today in the White House, where the company the president keeps looks pretty bad, especially when it comes to reproductive health and freedom (along with many other issues).
From the number two position — Vice President Mike Pence — to political appointees, the administration’s bedfellows have set out to make changes in federal laws and policies that will cause serious damage to Americans’ lives, health, and freedoms. In their desire to take us back to pre-Roe v. Wade days, prop up their extremist ideology, and block women from making their own decisions, these politicos are willing to endanger the health and wellbeing of people here at home and around the world and to lie about basic facts. That’s why, even in the face of the ongoing and — let’s face it — pretty distracting crises in Washington, it’s important we keep our eyes on these officials and their potential to do serious harm.
To help you know whom to watch and when to act, here’s a “who’s who” of the White House anti-women’s health brigade. A parade, if you will, of executive branch deceivers, deniers, and dangerous decision-makers:
Photo Credit: Michael Vandon, Flickr
Vice President Mike Pence
The former Indiana governor and Congress member, Mike Pence, is also the architect of Congressional efforts to “defund” Planned Parenthood — to prevent patients who rely on Medicaid from getting the care they need at Planned Parenthood health centers.
As vice president of the United States, Pence is in a prime position to do a lot of damage. Case in point: In his relatively short time as VP, Pence has already broken a tie vote in the Senate that could embolden states to block Title X patients from accessing Planned Parenthood health centers. (An Obama-era rule previously protected patients from that.) Pence cast this vote despite the facts that the care Planned Parenthood health centers provide is many womens’ main source of primary care, and Planned Parenthood health centers serve more contraceptive clients than any other publicly-funded health care provider.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price
Former Georgia Congressman Tom Price is not only a rabid opponent of abortion. He’s also a sworn enemy of the Affordable Care Act (a/k/a Obamacare) and particularly hates its rules that require birth control coverage with no copay. That’s bad news from someone whose main job it is to advise the president on health issues.
Asked in 2012 about whether women with low incomes would be able to afford birth control if the ACA didn’t make it available, Price said: “Bring me one woman who has been left behind. Bring me one. There’s no one.” In fact, about 55% of women ages 18-34 have reported struggling with the cost of birth control at some point in their lives, and, as a result, have used birth control inconsistently.
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Seema Verma (left)
Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma
A former health policy consultant, Verma is now responsible for overseeing massive federally funded health programs — Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Medicare — as well as implementing certain key provisions of the ACA.
How big are we talking about? Big. Medicaid alone is the country’s single largest reimburser of reproductive health care. One out of every five American women of reproductive age relies on Medicaid for access to cancer screenings, birth control, and other preventive care.
What Verma intends as CMS administrator is still unknown. But during her confirmation hearing, Verma was asked whether maternity benefits should continue to be covered as standard care, as they are now under the ACA. Verma’s answer can be seen in her actions: In March, she sent a letter to governors (co-signed by Secretary Price) saying she will allow states significant leeway over their Medicaid programs, even authorizing them to charge low-income people for their coverage and cut people from coverage if they are not working.
Food and Drug Administration Chief Scott Gottlieb
There are good reasons why the National Women’s Health Network recently called FDA Administrator Scott Gottlieb “a threat to women’s health and safety.” Here’s one: In 2005, as a senior FDA official under George W. Bush, Gottlieb and his colleagues overruled a decision by an advisory committee that would have legalized the over-the-counter Plan B emergency birth control pill. Got that? Despite what the advisory committee said about how safe and effective emergency contraception was, Gottlieb and his colleagues decided women shouldn’t have access to it. The federal Government Accounting Office later discovered that, even before the advisory committee voted, top FDA officials told their staff they would reject Plan B.
Since the FDA has considerable powers to approve (or disapprove) of individual medications, including types of birth control and medication used for medication abortions, Gottlieb’s got a worrying track record.
Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs Charmaine Yoest
As former head of the anti-abortion movement’s legal arm, Americans United for Life, Yoest pioneered tactics that have undermined women’s access to abortion in states across the country. Now that she’s responsible for shaping HHS’s communications strategy, what will she tell us? Will she reiterate past untrue assertions that access to birth control doesn’t have anything to do with reducing abortion rates? Or will she continue to make the patently false claim that abortion increases breast cancer risk? (In fact, the American Cancer Society observes, “scientific research studies have not found a cause-and-effect relationship between abortion and breast cancer.”) Stay tuned.
Title X National Federal Family Program Overseer Teresa Manning
If you’re expecting the head of the Title X program, which provides birth control and other preventive care to people with low incomes or no health insurance, to have a basic grasp of the facts about birth control and abortion, think again. “Of course, contraception doesn’t work,” Teresa Manning (nee Wagner) once told a Boston public radio interviewer. A former policy and legal analyst for the anti-abortion, anti-LGBT Family Research Council, Manning’s another fan of the false claim that abortion increases breast cancer risk.
White House Domestic Policy Counsel Katy Talento
Rounding out this trio of birth control deniers is Talento, who most recently worked as legislative director for North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis.
One might expect someone with a Master’s in epidemiology to know better. But Talento is a fountain of falsehoods about birth control, including that it causes “miscarriages of already-conceived children” and “break[s] your uterus for good.” (For the record: birth control pills prevent ovulation. And using birth control, even long term, doesn’t lead to infertility.) Talento’s job in the White House? Health policy. Let the groaning begin.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley
Haley has an undeserved reputation for being a moderate — which she is decidedly not. In fact, she has a long track record of attacking women’s health and rights. As governor of South Carolina, she signed into law legislation that outlaws abortion after 19 weeks, making no exceptions in cases of rape or incest. She’s also made some comments that give us pause, including telling TV’s The View that government shouldn’t work to ensure access to birth control. Seriously??
Haley has brought that extreme record into her new role in the Trump administration as UN Ambassador. Despite promising to “absolutely support” the UN’s Population Fund (UNFPA) during her confirmation hearings, she stood by as the Trump administration eliminated U.S. funding for UNFPA earlier this year. That’s more than $32 million off the table for important causes like family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention, programs addressing child marriage and female genital mutilation, and human rights and maternal and child health in more than 150 countries, including in high-conflict areas such as Syria, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.
Haley also showed her extreme side when she chose to include in the official U.S. delegation to an important UN meeting on women’s rights the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), a designated hate group, and the Heritage Foundation, an organization that has advocated for cuts to programs that address violence against women.
Here’s What You Can Do
It’ll take some work, but there’s still much we can do to stop the anti-reproductive-rights company that the president keeps — from taking us back to the days before Roe v. Wade.
- Bookmark our take action page for alerts
- Become a Planned Parenthood Defender,
- Volunteer with Planned Parenthood,
- Contribute, and
- Attend #IStandWithPP events.
The lives, health, and wellbeing of the company you keep will benefit dramatically from your support.