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The Trump Appointees Who Want to Take Your Birth Control

The Trump administration’s attack on birth control coverage — which jeopardizes more than 62 million women’s access to contraception — was no fluke. Since January 2017, women have been in the crosshairs of virtually every major health policy decision at the federal level. But why?

Take a look at the officials selected to serve at the highest echelons of Trump’s executive team. From the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to the White House, Trump has assembled a collection of hardline political ideologues: people guided by dogma, rather than facts, when they make decisions about sexual and reproductive health.

Meet the key people leading President Trump’s onslaught against women’s health — and learn about the extreme views they’re attempting to transform into federal policy.

Seema Verma, Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Some women might not choose [maternity coverage]. Some women might not want that.

— Seema Verma, at her confirmation hearing in 2017

Source: Chicago Tribune

Trump once referred to Verma and former HHS Secretary Tom Price as “the dream team.”

A former corporate health care consultant, Verma — who made millions while helping then-Gov. Mike Pence dismantle Medicaid in Indiana — now oversees Medicare and Medicaid. That’s right: A woman who thinks maternity coverage should be optional is in charge of the two programs that provide health care to the greatest number of women of all ages.

It Gets Worse:

Valerie Huber, Chief of Staff to the Assistant Secretary for Health

“Abstinence education is a great way to get to the end of abortion in our lifetime.”

— Valerie Huber, at the Bringing America Back to Life conference in 2012

Valerie Huber has spent years promoting abstinence-only education

Abstinence-only-until-marriage (AOUM) programs lack basis in fact, are ineffective, and encourage feelings of shame and confusion. They also leave teenagers at heightened risk of unintended pregnancy and STIs. Those bracing realities, though, have never appeared to sway Valerie Huber from her conviction that AOUM programs should be taught to youth across America. Huber has spent years attempting to put that conviction into practice; before joining the Trump administration, she was the president of Ascend, the premier abstinence-only-until-marriage advocacy group.

The most notable change since Huber’s arrival at HHS is an announced plan to terminate research and program grants under the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program two years ahead of schedule — jeopardizing the continuity of over $200 million of evidence-based sex education programs. Those grants sustain the essential work of empowering young people to lead safe and healthy lives, and their pending termination threatens recent progress toward lowering America’s birth rate among teenagers — which in recent years, due in part to broader access to contraception, has fallen to record lows.

It Gets Worse:

  • Huber helped to orchestrate attacks on the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program before her arrival at HHS — partnering with a Christian research organization called the Barna Group to run misleading surveys and infographics.

  • In 2012 the state of Tennessee adopted legislation, based on model language developed by Ascend when Huber was its president, that threatened fines of up to $500 for any sex education program or activity that exposed students to information about — without defining the term — “gateway sexual behavior.”

Matthew Bowman, Deputy General Counsel for the Department of Health and Human Services

“Anti-pregnancy items can run in the thousands of dollars and correlate with unhealthy lifestyles especially by enabling promiscuity.”

—Matthew Bowman, in a 2012 article

Matthew Bowman is a birth control skeptic

Tasked with ensuring that HHS policies comply with the law, Bowman worked behind the scenes to orchestrate efforts to end guaranteed birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Bowman joined the administration from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a group whose founder described it as a “legal army” for a range of ultra-conservative causes. ADF was a leader in the Supreme Court legal battle to let employers block access to birth control in their health insurance policies for ‘religious or moral reasons.’

It Gets Worse:

Katy Talento, Member, White House Domestic Policy Council

Hormonal birth control is seriously risky.

— Katy Talento, in a 2015 op-ed

A birth control skeptic

Talento, who is notorious for being a birth control foe, once worked as legislative director to ultra-conservative Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) — a supporter, when he was speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, of an infamous attempt to shoehorn restrictions on safe, legal abortion into a motorcycle safety bill.

Among Talento’s pastimes: spreading disinformation about birth control while wearing the guise of scientific expertise. In a blog post, Talento — who holds a master’s degree in public health — once bizarrely described the use of birth control as “ingest[ing] a bunch of dangerous, carcinogenic chemicals.”

It Gets Worse:

Scott Lloyd, Director, Office of Refugee Resettlement

I suggest that the American people make a deal with women: So long as you are using the condom, pill or patch I am providing with my [Title X] money, you are going to promise not to have an abortion if the contraception fails.

—Scott Lloyd, in a 2009 essay

Source: National Catholic Register, 2009

Lloyd arrived at HHS with little — well, no experience at resettling refugees, but with a substantial curriculum vitae as an anti-abortion zealot.

Previously the chief of public policy for the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic anti-abortion group, Lloyd became notorious in October 2017 for personally intervening to attempt to block young immigrant women in U.S. custody from access to abortion — and has repeated his attempts to stymie women’s constitutional rights several times since.

According to reporting published by Politico, Lloyd:

… has personally visited and called pregnant girls in shelters, directed them to a list of approved crisis pregnancy centers, instructed staff to block minors from meeting with attorneys and told shelter operators to call a minor’s parents even if she receives permission [from a judge to get] an abortion without their consent.

A spokesperson at HHS justified Lloyd’s interventions to the Washington Post by dubbing Lloyd the pregnant detainees’ “foster parent.” According to the Post, the HHS spokesperson asserted that “[Lloyd] by law has custody of these children, and just like a foster parent, he knows that that’s a lot of responsibility and he is going to make choices that he thinks are best for both the mother and the child.”

It Gets Worse:

  • In a 2015 essay, Lloyd exhorted the “[anti-abortion] movement … to embrace opposition to contraceptives as a necessary element in the effort to reduce the number of abortions.”

  • Writing in The Federalist, Lloyd mischaracterized commonly used, commonly understood methods of birth control as abortion. “The IUD, regular oral contraceptives, Ella, and Plan B work partially or exclusively,” Lloyd said, “by making the uterine lining unhospitable for a newly conceived zygote, expelling that life."

Charmaine Yoest, Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs

We know that abortion is not a means of female empowerment; it is a heartbreaking choice that ends one life and can damage another—and that is the true war on women.

— Charmaine Yoest, in a 2016 op-ed

Yoest's resume could double as a who’s who of anti-women’s health extremist organizations

Before she joined the Trump administration, Yoest was president of Americans United for Life, a high-profile anti-abortion group, and has worked at American Values, an ultra-conservative group known for its opposition to marriage equality.  

Yoest, like other Trump appointees to HHS, has often propagated falsehoods about birth control. In a 2012 interview with The New York Times, she said IUDs have “life-ending properties” — a declaration at odds with the scientific consensus that IUDs prevent fertilization by hindering the movement of sperm cells. Yoest has also associated with other reckless purveyors of misinformation; she once tweeted that she was “proud to call David Daleiden,” who is currently under indictment for orchestrating the release of deceptive videos that leveled fabricated charges at Planned Parenthood, “a friend.”

It Gets Worse:

Roger Severino, Director, HHS Office of Civil Rights

“Congress should make Planned Parenthood affiliates ineligible to receive…Title X grants if they continue to perform abortions.”

—Roger Severino in a Heritage Foundation report, September 2015

Severino has spent his career leading attacks on LGBT rights and women’s health.

Leading an office that — until recently when the Trump administration changed its mission — was dedicated to protecting health care access for marginalized communities was an odd fit for Roger Severino. A veteran of the extreme Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the right-wing Heritage Foundation, Severino has made his name defending sex discrimination in health programs — even going so far as to argue for the right to deny health care to women who’ve previously obtained abortions.

It Gets Worse:

Teresa Manning, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs

Interestingly, the [psychological] effects of abortion are very similar to the effects of rape.

— Teresa Manning in a 2000 Family Research Council paper

Let’s get to the point: Teresa Manning is an anti-women’s health extremist and longtime opponent of birth control.

She once claimed, in a discussion on a Boston public radio program, that “contraception doesn’t work” — and she said in 2003 that she does not believe the federal government should run family-planning programs.

Now Manning is in charge of Title X — the premier federal program dedicated to birth control and other preventive reproductive health services for those who otherwise lack access, whether it’s due to low incomes or lack of insurance coverage. That’s correct: Someone who believes “contraception doesn’t work” now administers the federal program designed to make contraception more readily available.

It Gets Worse:

  • After Manning joined HHS, the Trump administration has released a budget that would bar Planned Parenthood from participating in the Title X program. In a leaked memo, the White House proposes cutting the Title X budget by half – with its money diverted to fund abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.

  • Before joining the Trump administration, Manning worked as a lobbyist for the National Right to Life Committee and as a legislative analyst for the Family Research Council — two ultra-conservative organizations committed to blocking women’s access to safe, legal abortion.


Jane Norton, Former Director, Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs

As lieutenant governor, I defunded Planned Parenthood.

— Jane Norton, in 2010 

Source: Colorado Independent

Jane Norton has attacked women’s health for decades.

Colorado’s former lieutenant governor and former director of public health has devoted herself to the cause of “defunding” Planned Parenthood. In the late 1990s, she tried (and failed) to block health care providers that also provide abortion from the state’s public health programs. Even after she left public office in Colorado, she continued her crusade; in 2013, she filed suit as a private citizen in an attempt to force the state to block low-income Coloradans from accessing care at Planned Parenthood.

It Gets Worse:

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