Trump’s Appointees Aren’t Just Anti-Choice — They’re Anti-Contraception

Our president’s appointee to head up the agency responsible for family planning has a troubling anti-contraceptive history.

Just over 100 days into this administration, it feels like Trump has jumped the shark on empirically unqualified appointments as he continues to stack every department possible with misogynistic, anti-reproductive health, anti-equality, anti-EVERY-marginalized-identity candidates. As he has been wholly unsuccessful on a legislative level (“the worst on record,” according to the New York Times), appointments remain his most effective avenue for imposing his authoritarian agenda on us.

The December appointment of Rick Perry to head an agency (the Department of Energy) with a name he couldn’t remember during a debate — but which he remained sure he wanted to eliminate should he become president — really ought to have been the cherry on top of the unqualified appointee sundae. Unfortunately, The Donald hadn’t turned his attention to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) yet.

It seemed certain that we’d hit peak Wrong Person For The Job last week when the vehemently and publicly anti-choice Charmaine Yoest was made assistant secretary of public affairs for HHS — an agency with a stated mission “to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans.” As president of Americans United For Life from 2008 until early 2016, she was the face of and the driving force behind the hundreds of oppressive abortion restrictions passed at the state level. The thought of a woman who has called people who support access to the full range of reproductive health care — so, the vast majority of Americans — “the true misogynists in our society” being allowed near HHS is infuriating and dangerous.

Appointments remain Trump’s most effective avenue for imposing his authoritarian agenda on us.

Yesterday, however, Trump topped Yoest by putting National Right to Life Committee lobbyist Teresa Manning in charge of the Title X program, which has provided family planning services to low-income residents of the U.S. since President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1970. She is extreme, even by anti-choice standards.

As reported by Rewire News:

“In a 2003 interview with NPR-affiliate WBUR, Manning, who went by Teresa Wagner at the time, dismissed pro-choice advocates who point out that offering access to comprehensive contraceptive care can reduce the number of abortions. The segment examined ‘pro-life views’ in the shadow of Roe v. Wade. ‘There really is no evidence to support that,’ Manning falsely claimed, later adding that ‘contraception doesn’t work’ and that ‘its efficacy is very low.’”

And also:

“She said in 2001 that making emergency contraceptives available over the counter is ‘immoral…and medically irresponsible,’ despite evidence that doing so is safe and could improve public health.”

Essentially, Manning wants to roll back reproductive health care to the turn of the previous century, when the push was to create and make available (albeit originally only to married women) a means of providing individuals control over their fertility. As deputy assistant secretary for population affairs at HHS, she will hold the lives of the 4 million clients served each year by Title X in her hands.

Physicians for Reproductive Health board member Dr. Nancy Stanwood reacted via email to the one-two punch of Yoest and Manning:

“The latest way the Trump administration is attacking reproductive health is by appointing two people to the Department of Health and Human Services who want to stand directly in the way of patients getting the health care they need…These appointments are unacceptable, as they threaten millions of patients as they try to obtain comprehensive and compassionate health care. The Trump administration’s callous disdain for the health and dignity of women and families appears to know no bounds.”

According to a comprehensive breakdown of what’s at stake when Title X funding and access is threatened at the Center for American Progress (CAP), as usual it’s marginalized people who face losing contraceptive and other preventative care. More than half of Title X clients are people of color, and they are disproportionately young because of the guarantee of privacy (seeing a Title X clinic rather than their family doctor often makes young folks feel safer).

Beyond the individuals who would be impacted, there are also the American taxpayers to consider. Via CAP:

“Public spending for the U.S. family planning program prevents unintended pregnancies and reduces the incidence and impact of preterm and low birth weight births, sexually transmitted infections, infertility, and cervical cancer…Despite funding cuts, taxpayers have saved a significant amount of money by investing in family planning — about $15.8 billion in gross public savings in 2010 alone.”

Research shows that every $1 in Title X funding saves an average of $7.09 in Medicaid costs — approximately $13.6 billion every year through preventing unplanned pregnancy, sexual transmitted infection testing, vaccines, and Pap smears. Naturally, Trump and his vice president are prioritizing the demolition of this vital, cost-effective program.

“Not only has Teresa Manning made outrageous and erroneous comments about birth control, but she has a long history of attacking access to it,” said Stanwood. “It’s disturbing that someone appointed to oversee the Title X Family Planning Program — a program dedicated to ensuring that four million Americans who have low incomes or no health insurance have access to birth control — is so misinformed about birth control and would work to dismantle a successful program.”

These appointments matter even more than in a typical administration because our president essentially thinks he’s King. His first round of executive orders and continued confidence that he can just build a wall on Mexican soil without permission from Mexico or support from Congress highlights his certainty that he can direct government staff to do almost whatever he wants, Constitution and democracy be damned. (This authoritarian mentality was further demonstrated last week, when he advocated for consolidating his own power.)

At the same time, the sheer frequency of such appointments has made us increasingly desensitized to them; what might have once stoked outrage often now leads to distressed resignation. But we do have the power to create change — and we must not forget that each and every one of these appointments will have a tremendous impact on the lives of Americans, and particularly those who are most marginalized and vulnerable.

The sheer frequency of such appointments has made us increasingly desensitized to them.

Manning is a threat to basic, preventative care and we need to be raising hell, demanding her dismissal — and calling our representatives to demand that they vocally call for her dismissal as well.

Every member of the House of Representatives is up for reelection next year. Find yours HERE and send them an email, tweet at their handle, and/or take 90 seconds to call their office (you’ll get a polite staffer, I promise); tell them that you expect them to stand up to the president on appointments, not just legislation, and that your vote depends on them doing so. It feels defeatist to already be looking ahead, but minimizing the damage Trump is able to do over the next few years matters — and we have to start now.