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“No new shine will help an apple if it’s already rotten to the core.”

Washington, DC — Today, the Senate held a hearing on the nomination of Alex Azar to be the next head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The department is essential in determining access to health care for millions of Americans, overseeing programs such as Medicaid, the CDC, Title X, and more. When asked by Senator Murray, Azar indicated that bosses should have jurisdiction over women’s medical decision making when it comes to birth control coverage. Telling Senators that “the conscience of employers needs to be taken into account when it comes to providing birth control.”  

Under the Trump administration, HHS has become a haven for idealogues determined to eliminate women’s access to reproductive health care. Already HHS has issued a rule that eliminated the guarantee of health insurance coverage for birth control for more than 62 million women, dramatically slashed sex education and health care grants with no warning or explanation, and even held a young immigrant woman hostage in order to prevent her from accessing a safe, legal abortion.

Statement from Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President for Planned Parenthood Action Fund: 

No new shine will help an apple if it’s already rotten to the core. Alex Azar would be coming in to oversee a department that is stacked with officials hell-bent on taking away women’s access to health care. Under the Trump administration, the Department of Health and Human Services has taken direct aim at birth control coverage for 62.4 million women, cut funding for sex education, and held a woman hostage to prevent her from accessing a safe, legal abortion.  

“Every person deserves access to quality, affordable health care from a provider they know and trust. People have the right to access the birth control and other basic health care like cancer screenings so they can stay healthy and plan their futures. Americans will not stand for an HHS secretary who would erode that right.

According to a leaked memo, HHS also intends on using federal programs to direct women to use fertility awareness methods such as the “rhythm method” instead of other more effective forms of birth control, and prioritize ineffective abstinence programs over sex education. Last week, The Hill also reported that the department may use the Title X program — the nation’s only federal program dedicated to birth control that over four million people rely on each year — to implement, for the first time in U.S. history, a domestic gag rule, preventing health care providers from making referrals for or even sharing information about birth control and abortion.

Background on Title X and Planned Parenthood:

  • Title X is the only federal grant program dedicated to providing family planning and basic preventive care to uninsured, underinsured, and low-income people, including birth control, STI/HIV services, and life-saving cancer screenings. Every year, Title X providers serve more than four million women, men, and young people.

  • A significant proportion of Title X patients identify as members of racial or ethnic communities that often face significant health challenges due to systemic inequities, including Black or African American patients (21%), and Hispanic or Latino patients (32%).

  • Nearly 90% of patients had incomes at or below 250% of the Federal Poverty Level and were therefore eligible for free or discounted services. Two-thirds of patients live under 100% of the FPL.

  • In 2016, Title X centers served 2.8 million contraceptive patients. Title X also provided 5.1 million STI tests including 1.2 million confidential HIV tests, nearly 700,000 Pap tests, and nearly one million clinical breast exams.

  • Planned Parenthood is the leading family planning provider participating in the Title X program.

  • According to latest estimates, Planned Parenthood health centers served four in 10 Title X patients (41%) in 2015, despite only accounting for 13% of Title X centers.

  • In 18 states, Planned Parenthood serves at least one-third of all Title X patients (and in many states much higher proportions), including in Michigan, Indiana, Nevada, New Jersey, and Utah.

  • Research has shown that Planned Parenthood consistently outperforms other publicly funded providers, including FQHCs, when it comes to meeting the family planning needs of people across the United States by:

    • Providing the full range of birth control methods on-site;

    • Filling longer-term contraceptive prescriptions; and

    • Offering shorter wait times and expanded health center hours.

  • Community health centers will not be able to fill the huge void if Planned Parenthood is blocked from Title X program, dealing a major blow to health care access for thousands of low-income people across the country.

  • Even among Title X-participating CHCs, only 64 percent of Title X CHCs provided IUDs and implants. Whereas 98% of Planned Parenthood health centers offer these longer-acting methods.

  • For CHCs receiving Title X funding, only 52 percent of their largest health center sites provide all contraceptive methods, including IUDs and implants.

  • Across the entire Community Health Center network, nearly half of sites served fewer than 10 contraceptive patients annually.

BACKGROUND ON TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S ANTI-WOMEN’S HEALTH APPOINTEES:

President Trump has systematically filled key administration positions with anti-science, anti-women’s health extremists, including:

  • Teresa Manning, who oversees the Title X program — the nation’s only federal program dedicated to family planning — is a former lobbyist for the National Right to Life Committee and policy analyst for the Family Research Council, claimed in an interview with WBUR that “contraception doesn’t work,” and stated on C-SPAN that she does not believe the federal government should run family planning programs.

  • Scott Lloyd, who directs the Office of Refugee Resettlement, has instructed his department to go to extreme lengths to block young immigrant women detained by the government from accessing abortions, which includes physically holding them hostage, as seen in the case of Jane Doe. Lloyd also believes that Title X family planning funding should be taken away from women altogether, but so so long as it exists, all women who have relied on Title X programs should be forced to sign a pledge that they won’t have an abortion if they need one.

  • Matthew Bowman, the Legal Advisor to the HHS Secretary tasked with making sure policies comply with the law, has been the architect of rules dismantling the ACA’s women’s preventive services birth control coverage requirements. Bowman has been wildly vocal in his belief that IUDs and emergency contraception cause abortions and that the contraceptive mandate may spread measles.

  • HHS Top Spokesperson Charmaine Yoest has touted phony claims that abortion causes breast cancer that are based on junk science and spent years as an anti-abortion extremist. As the HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Yoest is allowed to frame information about women’s reproductive health and abortion. Yoes is so extreme that in an anti-LGBT blog, she wrote “when it comes to rape, women tell the truth about half the time.”

  • Valerie Huber, the Chief of Staff at OASH, is an anti-sex education activist and was the CEO of Ascend, formerly known as the National Abstinence Education Association. Despite being opposed to comprehensive sex education, Huber holds a leadership position implementing key programs in this country to reduce unintended pregnancy and ensure young people’s health, including Title X and the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program

  • Domestic Policy Council Member Katy Talento is vehemently opposed to basic contraceptive coverage, yet is now responsible for helping to shape health care legislation that will affect millions of women for years to come. Talento even wrote an article claiming that “chemical birth control” is “causing miscarriages of already-conceived children,” and “breaking your uterus for good.”

  • Jane Norton, the head of HHS Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, is a staunch opponent of Planned Parenthood who spent the majority of her political career in Colorado attempting to cut women off from this health care provider. Norton serves as the point of contact for all levels of government, as well as external organizations (nonprofits, companies, trade associations etc), who have an interest in working with HHS.

  • CMS Administrator Seema Verma, who runs Medicaid which covers half of all births in this country and provides health care to women of all ages, believes that maternity coverage should be optional.

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Planned Parenthood Action Fund is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Action Fund engages in educational and electoral activity, including voter education, grassroots organizing, and legislative advocacy.