The Trump administration isn’t done hiring opponents of abortion rights and contraceptives to powerful positions within the Health and Human Services Department. Teresa Manning, a law professor at George Mason University who is both anti-abortion and anti-contraception, will be tapped for Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs at the department, according to Politico.
Manning is currently listed as deputy assistant secretary for the office in the HHS staff directory.
Manning has worked for the National Right to Life Committee and Family Research Council. She has a long history of making inaccurate statements about contraception, like saying that it doesn’t work, and falsely claimed there was a link between breast cancer and abortion, according to Mic.
In 2001, when Manning worked for the Family Research Council, which has fiercely opposed LGBTQ rights, she said that it was “immoral” and “medically irresponsible” to ensure that women can buy emergency contraceptives over the counter.
Part of Manning’s role is to administer $286 million in federal Title X family planning funds, which benefit low-income populations. Title X is a competitive federal grant program that provides family planning and other health services to an estimated four million low-income uninsured and underinsured people each year. Providers have to demonstrate a capacity to meet needs in community before receiving funds.
Manning would have a role in setting national policy on issues of family planning and contraception and advises the secretary and assistant secretary for the department on a “wide range of reproductive health issues,” according to the HHS website.
Audrey Sandusky, director of advocacy and communications for the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, said she is uncertain what Manning would do in this position but that she would have considerable influence over implementation of Title X. Sandusky’s group is a membership organization that represents providers and administrators that help people get family planning care and education.
“The [Deputy Assistant Secretary of Population Affairs] oversees implementation of family planning and the Title X requirement, and could have influence over program priorities and new initiatives,” Sandusky said. “With regard to the position, her resume speaks for itself. We could see even more uncertainty for this safety net. That said, no matter the political environment, we are poised to work with anyone in administration who is committed to strengthening the provider network.”
“Her resume speaks for itself. We could see even more uncertainty for this safety net.”
Sandusky said a bigger problem for providers may be Congress’ allocation of funding to Title X, which has fallen over the years.
“A larger issue for providers has been the fact that funding over past 10 years has dipped significantly and has not kept pace with growing demands for care,” Sandusky said. “So our most immediate concern is the fact that we need to hold Congress accountable to protect funding for the program so providers can continue to meet their mission.”
Funding levels barely budged from the 2014 fiscal year to the 2016 fiscal year. In 2010, its funding level was $317 million. The funding level for fiscal year 2016 is only slightly higher than it was in 2005.
Senate Republicans already moved to nix an Obama administration rule requiring state and local governments to distribute Title X funds to health providers for family planning services and cervical cancer screenings without any consider of whether those providers also perform abortions. In March, Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking procedural vote that allows states to stop health providers that perform abortions from receiving Title X money for preventive services.
Several reproductive rights groups and Democratic lawmakers spoke out against Manning’s appointment.
Co-chairs of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) released a statement calling Manning “an extreme anti-choice activist.”
“President Trump already attacked the Title X family planning program earlier this year by eliminating important protections that helped women access birth control and basic health services,” Slauter and DeGette said. “Now we’re hearing that he plans to take his assault on the program one step further by putting Teresa Manning, an extreme anti-choice activist, in charge of overseeing the office that administers Title X.”
Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, released a statement on the appointment.
“It is a cruel irony to appoint an opponent of birth control to oversee the nation’s only federal program dedicated to family planning,” Laguens stated. “We are at the lowest rate of unintended pregnancy in 30 years and a historic low for teen pregnancy because of access to birth control. Someone who promotes myths about birth control and reproductive care should not be in charge of the office that is responsible for family planning at HHS.”
In an interview with ThinkProgress, Yamani Hernandez, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds said the sakes were high for low-income people who rely on services from providers who benefit from Title X.
“Lives are in danger when you have people who really don’t trust the people who live and work in this country to make the decisions they need to make about their own lives and families,” Hernandez said.
The reports of Manning’s expected appointment followed news on Friday that Charmaine Yoest was chosen for assistant secretary of public affairs. Yoest is the former president of Americans United for Life, which has played a large role in advancing anti-abortion bills on the state level.
Manning wouldn’t be the first virulent opponent of abortion and reproductive health services to oversee the office. The George H.W. Bush administration appointed someone who opposed abortion, legalized birth control, and premarital sex, William R. Archer III, for the same role. He later became Texas’ health commissioner. During his time as health commissioner, the state had one of the highest rates of AIDS, diabetes, and teenage pregnancy, and had some of the lowest rates of mammograms and immunizations, according to The New York Times. According to the Times, Archer once claimed the teenage pregnancy rate was high because Hispanic teenagers “want to be pregnant,” even though Guttmacher Institute data showed non-Hispanic white people also had very high rates of teen pregnancy compared to other states.
The George W. Bush administration also appointed Dr. Susan Orr as deputy assistant secretary of the office in 2007, who, like Manning, once worked for the Family Research Council. Orr opposed contraception access. After President George W. Bush proposed to get rid of the requirement that federal employees have access to a range of options for birth control coverage in 2001, Orr, who was then the senior director for the FRC, said, “We’re quite pleased.” But she didn’t have a lot of time to make her mark. She resigned less than a year after her appointment.