The newest addition to Donald Trump’s ragtag band of anti-science religious fundamentalists at the Department of Health and Human Services is Diane Foley, who will help manage the federal government’s family-planning program. Foley’s dubious qualifications include leading a set of anti-abortion centers, giving speeches about accepting God’s word as the ultimate truth, and passing herself off as a practicing doctor when she has no medical license.
HHS announced in a tweet on Tuesday that Foley will join the agency’s new Office of Population Affairs as deputy assistant secretary, replacing Teresa Manning. Manning, a former anti-abortion lobbyist who insisted that contraception “doesn’t work” to prevent pregnancy, resigned in January after less than a year on the job.
Foley’s views on reproductive health are no more in line with science and accepted standards of health care than Manning’s. Until last year, she was the president and CEO of the Life Network, an organization that operates two anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers in Colorado Springs that run abstinence-only education programs for teens. The purpose of crisis pregnancy centers is to convince women not to have abortions, sometimes after luring them in with deceptive advertising that makes them seem like abortion clinics or general health facilities. “Through our pregnancy centers we have the opportunity to see God use the miracle of ultrasound to change and save lives,” Life Network’s website says. The first element of its mission is “presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Life Network and Foley both promote an idea they call “post-abortion syndrome,” whose stated symptoms include “guilt, anxiety, feeling numb, depression, avoiding babies and pregnant women, inability to bond with future children, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, [and] fear of infertility.” No medical authority has recognized the existence of such a syndrome. Women are more sure of their decisions to get abortions than their decisions to get knee surgery, and one large study found that, over three years after an abortion, 95 percent of women remained sure it was the right choice.
In a 2016 presentation she gave on abortion and the importance of a “Biblical worldview,” Foley said that, as a doctor, when a patient presented with substance-abuse problems or depression, she’d ask them if they’d ever had an abortion. After an abortion, she said she told them, “there is difficulty with relationships, many times there is misuse or abuse of alcohol or other drugs, depression, suicidal thoughts, decreased self-esteem, many times we see this as risky sexual behaviors that come out as a part of that.” These statements, presented by Foley as medical advice, have not been supported by medical research. They also echo the viewpoints of leading anti-abortion advocate Charmaine Yoest, who made several claims, against all evidence, that abortion causes breast cancer. Trump appointed Yoest to HHS in April 2017; she stepped down in February to join the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
At HHS, Foley will be a primary overseer of Title X, the federal program that provides subsidized contraception and screenings for cancer and STIs for low-income Americans. The Trump administration’s last appointee for the role didn’t believe contraception worked; Foley has said it is “sexual harassing” to teach teenagers how to use condoms. Foley will join senior policy advisor Valerie Huber, a top abstinence-only advocate whose organization’s curriculum told teenagers they should “be prepared to die” if they have sex before marriage, in leading the contraception program.
Correction, June 1, 2018: This post originally cited research from Equity Forward that stated that Foley had never been licensed to practice medicine in Colorado. She was, under the name Deborah.