The Christian right are taking over the Dept. of Health and Human Services
Prominent anti-abortion and anti-LGBT activists are increasingly taking over roles in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the US, ultimately shaping federal policy regarding healthcare access. On January 18, 2018, HHS announced the formation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights. According to the release:
Acting HHS Secretary Hargan said, “President Trump promised the American people that his administration would vigorously uphold the rights of conscience and religious freedom. That promise is being kept today. The Founding Fathers knew that a nation that respects conscience rights is more diverse and more free, and OCR’s new division will help make that vision a reality.”
Hargan’s quote demonstrates a bias interpretation of “religious freedom” exclusively applied to the Christian faith which was part of Trump’s platform.
In an interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, Dan Diamond, who covers the Dept. of Health and Human Services for Politico commented on some of the organization’s new leadership:
Charmaine Yoest is the head of public affairs, essentially, at HHS. She’s the top spokesperson. Any messaging that the agency does, any communications — it all flows through her. And before joining HHS, Charmaine was a very prominent anti-abortion advocate. She had suggested that there’s a link between having abortions and breast cancer, which the American Cancer Society and other researchers have said there is no link, at least not scientifically proven. She had questioned whether transgender folks were mentally ill. And now she is running a $1 trillion agency with 80,000 employees, many of whom are career staff who have been there for years and work in health and science fields and may not agree with her policies. When we see the documents coming out of us that do have these subtle cues to the anti-abortion movement, the anti-LGBT folks, it’s interesting to look and see how Charmaine, someone who hadn’t really been in a government public affairs job before, is now the person who gets to sign off on those messages.
The interview, which can be heard HERE, discusses the dangers of placing people with a particular religious agenda in positions of making sweeping health regulations for the American people. Particularly, the challenge of appealing regulations if they are discriminatory. Diamond explains:
You’re hitting on another major victory for this administration, which is the president has appointed a Supreme Court justice. That was one reason why Christian conservatives flocked to support him in the run up to the 2016 election… on the appellate level, Trump had a historic year. He appointed 12 judges, more than any president has appointed in a single year. And that has led to the expectation that when these challenges come — because they will — there will be that much more support for the Trump administration because the judiciary is being filled out with more judges who are sympathetic to these (religious) positions.
The capacity for religious beliefs to permeate an area of policy reserved for medicine and science is distressing to say the least. It’s dangerously unconstitutional and poses a threat to the preservation of our nation. Nobody should be making policy decisions on the basis of biblical ideology.
I encourage everyone to share information about this growing concern with others and am open to hearing ideas about how to combat this revived tyranny.