The XX Factor

Trump Will Tap Woman Who Thinks Birth Control Doesn’t Work to Lead U.S. Birth Control Program

Donald Trump is stacking the Department of Health and Human Services with people who don’t believe in science or medical research.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

In an apparent continuation of his plan to run the executive branch by the laws of Opposite Day, Donald Trump will appoint a woman who believes birth control is a sham to lead the federal government’s largest family-planning program. Politico reported on Monday that Teresa Manning will be named the Department of Health and Human Services’ deputy assistant secretary for population affairs, putting her in charge of more than $286 million in Title X family-planning grants.

Manning has a history of spreading lies about reproductive science and advocating against women’s access to health care. Like another one of Trump’s HHS picks, Charmaine Yoest, Manning insists against established medical fact that abortion causes breast cancer. “The link between abortion and breast cancer is now undisputed,” Manning wrote in 2000, paraphrasing a bogus scientist who’s devoted his life to exposing an imagined conspiracy between abortion providers and every major cancer research organization. “Reports of physical injuries and deaths at clinics are already alarmingly common,” she continued. This claim is unscientific, wrong, and worthy of disqualification for an appointee to a post at the top of a federal health agency. Both surgical and medication abortion are remarkably safe—safer than colonoscopies and wisdom-tooth removal. If Manning’s threshold for alarm is that low, she might hyperventilate when she finds out abortion is 14 times safer than childbirth.

The editor of a book called Back to the Drawing Board: The Future of the Pro-Life Movement, Manning has called abortion “legalized crime” and family planning “something that occurs between a husband and a wife and God” that “doesn’t really involve the federal government.” At a stop on her book tour in 2003, she told WBUR that “contraception doesn’t work” because “its efficacy is very low,” so sexually active women who use a birth control method might still get pregnant. The most common forms of hormonal birth control are more than 90 percent effective, and intrauterine devices, which are gaining in popularity, are more than 99 percent effective. No respectable medical professional would call these efficacy rates “very low” or use tiny failure rates as an argument against birth control. By putting Manning—who doesn’t believe birth control works or that the government has any role in helping people prevent pregnancy—in charge of the government program that helps people prevent pregnancy with birth control, Trump is signaling his intention to dismantle the program entirely, as House Republicans have repeatedly tried to do.

As a former National Right to Life Committee lobbyist and Family Research Council analyst, Manning has written that “destruction of a human life” is “a major, if not dominant, mechanism” of emergency contraception and edited a paper that asks, “Considering that the effects of abortion are very similar to the effects of rape, is abortion a healthy solution for the pregnant rape victim?” She has accused the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a coalition of nearly 60,000 U.S. doctors and one of the most reliable sources of research and analysis on women’s health, of being deceitful and in the pocket of the “abortion industry.” She’s also argued that doctors can’t be trusted to decide whether a pregnant woman needs an abortion to preserve her health, because they have a financial incentive to get paid for performing the procedure, creating a “conflict of interest.”

More than 4 million low-income and uninsured people benefit from Title X grants every year. The sole federal program dedicated exclusively to family planning, Title X provides about 10 percent of publicly-funded family planning services in the U.S., second only to Medicaid’s 75 percent. Without the continued smart application of Title X’s current $286.6 million budget, those 4 million patients may experience an interruption in their access to contraception, leading to an increase in rates of unplanned pregnancies.

In her new role, Manning will advise HHS Secretary Tom Price, a vocal opponent of birth-control access, on issues like teen pregnancy, which is currently on a steep decline thanks to improved access to contraception. Teen girls and low-income women will be the ones who suffer unwanted pregnancies because of Trump’s decision to stack the nation’s federal health agency with people who plug their ears and close their eyes to doctors, scientists, and medical research. By putting ideology over health care, Trump is ensuring that his federal government treats women like reproducing machines instead of human beings.