Washington, DC -- Today, the Senate confirmed Mr. Alex Azar as the new secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Following several weeks of harmful policy coming from the HHS, as well as irresponsible actions by HHS officials, Planned Parenthood demands that Azar rid the agency of its unconstitutional practices and irresponsible officials.
Statement from Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President, Planned Parenthood Action Fund:
Over the past year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has subverted its mission and has taken steps to undermine people’s access to health care. To restore the dignity and reputation of the agency, their new secretary, Alex Azar, must commit to cleaning house and re-instituting policies that are based on science and evidence.
“Planned Parenthood calls on Alex Azar to take three steps immediately. First, remove Scott Lloyd from his position as director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, and do the same with other ideologically driven HHS officials. Second, rescind HHS-issued policies that enable discrimination and undermine people’s access to the full range of health care services. And third, recommit HHS to science- and evidence-based policies. Only after these steps are taken can people begin to once again see HHS as an essential agency that will protect their health.
HHS had a series of missteps and instances of overreach over the past year:
- HHS issued rules that eliminate the guarantee that health insurance will cover birth control for more than 62 million women;
- HHS issued rules to open a new office and released a far-reaching proposed rule that would embolden health care workers to block access to care for women and LGBTQ people; affect numerous health care programs across the federal government; and expand the reach of federal refusal laws to potentially allow any institution, health care provider, or worker in a health care facility;
- HHS issued guidance emboldening states to illegally block patients from accessing care at Planned Parenthood health centers;
- 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 rate of unintended pregnancy is at a 30-year low, and the rate of teen pregnancy is at a historic low. The actions of HHS threaten to undo the progress we have made as a country;
- And The Hill has reported that the HHS 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.
BACKGROUND ON TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S ANTI-WOMEN’S HEALTH APPOINTEES:
- 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.
- Valerie Huber, the new head of the nation’s family planning program, 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
- Roger Severino, the man overseeing the HHS Office of Civil Rights, is advancing his own ideological agenda at the expense of the people he is tasked with serving. Severino has called to end protections for transgender people. He is also a staunch opponent of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception and abortion, and has also called for the defunding of Planned Parenthood.
- 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. Yoest is so extreme that in an anti-LGBT blog, she wrote “when it comes to rape, women tell the truth about half the time.”
- 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 Affordable Care Act’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.
- 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.
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.