Chief of Staff for the Office of Civil Rights (HHS)Appointed to post: 4-15-2017
Who is March Bell?
Before joining the Trump administration, March Bell was a Justice Department attorney and anti-abortion activist. In the administration, he worked under Roger Severino — who was in charge of preventing discrimination in federal health care programs. But instead of focusing on ensuring equal access to health care, Bell and Severino used the Office of Civil Rights to let providers cite personal objections to deny patients care.
“Any interference in [Planned Parenthood’s] cash flow that we can bring through any kind of lawsuit… can shut down a whole state or a whole group of clinics.”
What March Bell Controlled
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) — Office for Civil Rights
The HHS Office for Civil Rights enforces the laws that ensure equality for all citizens. It also investigates attacks on civil rights, including violations of religious freedom and patient privacy.
Background on March Bell
March Bell was staff director and chief counsel of a U.S. House panel that investigated unfounded attacks against Planned Parenthood led by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), an extreme anti-abortion group. After conducting a 15-month investigation and spending $1.6 million in taxpayer dollars, the panel found no evidence of wrongdoing — but still recommended slashing funding for Planned Parenthood.Alternet
Democratic representatives called on the Trump-Pence administration to recognize March Bell’s conflicts of interest in joining the Office of Civil Rights as chief of staff. They cited evidence that Bell coordinated with CMP during the federal investigation into Planned Parenthood.Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
Not long after Bell was appointed, it became apparent that the administration had deleted language prohibiting sex discrimination from the Office for Civil Rights website.Sunlight
While speaking on an anti-abortion panel, March Bell said his federal investigation into Planned Parenthood purposefully aimed to weaken the organization and relied on "lots of phone calls with David Daleiden," who orchestrated the discredited video smear campaign.Right Wing Watch
Under Bell’s watch, HHS established the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom — which is dedicated to denying health care to LGBTQ+ people, women who have abortions, and others seeking reproductive and sexual health care.Rewire