PRESIDENT TRUMP appointed an energy secretary who wanted to abolish the Energy Department and an Environmental Protection Agency chief who opposed much of what the EPA does. Even so, the selection of someone who doesn’t believe in contraception to take charge of federal family planning efforts strains all credulity. It is a cynical appointment that underscores the dangers this administration poses to women’s health.
Teresa Manning, a former lobbyist with the National Right to Life Committee and legislative analyst for the Family Research Council, was named this week as deputy assistant secretary for population affairs for the Department of Health and Human Services.
Administrations are entitled to staff their government with people who share their views. The selection of antiabortion advocates — Charmaine Yoest, former head of Americans United for Life, as assistant secretary of health and human services in charge of public affairs, for example — should come as no surprise, given the long-standing opposition to abortion of HHS Secretary Tom Price and Vice President Pence. In fact, you might hope that abortion opponents would appreciate the importance contraception plays in preventing unwanted pregnancies and abortions as well as in promoting public health.
Yet the person chosen to help manage the $286 million Title X family planning program, which mainly serves low-income and uninsured men and women, has spent much of her career denigrating family planning methods. “Of course, contraception doesn’t work. Its efficacy is very low,” she said during a 2003 NPR interview. She continued, “In fact, the incidence of contraception use and the incidence of abortion go up hand in hand.” And appearing on a 2003 panel about a book she edited , she said, “I always shake my head. You know, family planning is what occurs between a husband and a wife and God. And it doesn’t really involve the federal government, much less the United Nations, where we hear about family planning all the time. What are they doing in that business?”
Access to birth control, as Planned Parenthood has pointed out, explains why the country is experiencing the lowest rate of unintended pregnancy in 30 years and a historic low for teen pregnancy. According to the Guttmacher Institute, which provides research on reproductive health care, the contraceptive care delivered by Title X clinics in 2014 helped women avoid 904,000 unintended pregnancies, which would have resulted in 326,000 abortions.
Public health should be guided by science and facts, not ideology or conjecture; the views expressed — and unrepudiated — by Ms. Manning make her the wrong choice for this important job.
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