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Any new HHS Secretary must rid agency of unconstitutional practices and irresponsible officials

Washington, DC — Today, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Alex Azar to be the next head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This comes after a series of missteps and instances of overreach by the organization over the past several months:

  • HHS issued a new rule that eliminates the guarantee that health insurance will cover birth control for more than 62 million women;

  • HHS intends, according to a leaked memo, to promote fertility awareness methods of birth control, such as the “rhythm method,” over other effective methods of birth control;

  • The important role of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research public health issues was compromised when, according to reports, HHS banned the use of seven words — including “evidence-based,” “transgender,” “fetus,” and “vulnerable” — and has done nothing to reverse this dangerous move;

  • HHS withheld thousands of comments on policy from the public because they went against the ideological viewpoint of some HHS officials;

  • Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Director Scott Lloyd personally and unconstitutionally used his position to intervene in young immigrant women’s personal medical decisions, including one who was a rape survivor, by contacting the women directly, ordering that all decisions about accessing safe, legal abortion go through him personally, and directing that they be taken to anti-abortion centers that often manipulate women and provide inaccurate information about abortion. Courts eventually had to intervene multiple times to ensure the women were able to access safe, legal abortion.

  • HHS announced it was ending evidence-based programs, like the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP). We’ve made incredible progress for women over the past decade: The rates of unintended pregnancy is at a 30-year low and teen pregnancy are at a historic low. HHS’ actions threaten to undo the progress we have made as a country.

  • The Hill also reported that the department may use the Title X program — the nation’s only federal program dedicated to birth control that more than 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.

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

It’s clear that right now, HHS is a hot mess. In order for Alex Azar, or any secretary, to restore the dignity and reputation of the agency, they must commit to cleaning house and re-institute policies that are based on science and evidence, not fringe ideology. Planned Parenthood calls on Alex Azar to take three steps immediately. First, remove Scott Lloyd from his position as director of ORR. Second, rescind the HHS-issued rule that eliminates the guarantee that health insurance will cover birth control for more than 62 million women. And third, recommit HHS to science- and evidence-based policies. Only then can people begin to once again see HHS as an essential agency that will protect their health.

If Azar is confirmed as HHS Secretary, Planned Parenthood calls for him to take three steps immediately:

  1. Immediately remove Scott Lloyd from his position as director of ORR. Lloyd is unfit to serve in the government and he’s imposing his personal beliefs on the young women in his agency’s care in order to control their bodies and violate their constitutional rights. His overreach and abuse of power puts these young women’s lives in danger.  

  2. Rescind HHS-issued rules that seek to eliminate the guarantee that health insurance will cover birth control for more than 62 million women. The rules have already been blocked by two courts, and more than half a million people told HHS they oppose the birth control rules.

  3. Recommit HHS to science- and evidence-based policies by reversing guidance and policies that allowed HHS to ban the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using seven words, attack evidence-based programs like TPPP and Title X, and HHS to hide comments on policy from the public because they went against the ideological viewpoint of some HHS appointees.



This is all part of a broader agenda against women’s access to health care, accurate information, and bodily autonomy. Just look at who's at the helm of HHS. President Trump and Vice President Pence have systematically filled key administration positions with anti-science, anti-women’s health extremists, including:

  • 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 three cases of women seeking access to abortion. 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (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

  • 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.

  • 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 (non-profits, 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.



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.