In his letter to anti-choice advocates urging them to join his “Pro-Life Coalition,” President-elect Donald Trump vowed that he and his running mate Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) would “be advocates for the unborn and their mothers every day we are in the White House.”
Now that he has won the presidential race, Trump seems to be considering making good on that promise, stacking his list of possible Cabinet appointees with stringent anti-choice advocates who have made their mark on politics by pushing extreme opposition to reproductive rights.
Among the names floated for the secretary of health and human services (HHS) are Ben Carson, Newt Gingrich, and Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL), according to a list of possibilities obtained by BuzzFeed News. The Wall Street Journal added former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) as well.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, a failed presidential contender who is also reportedly up for the top spot at the Department of Education, spent much of his time on the campaign trail this past year inexplicably comparing abortion to slavery. He has said he would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned and does not support abortion ban exceptions for cases of rape and incest.
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Though he himself conducted medical research using tissue from aborted fetuses, he condemned Planned Parenthood officials for discussing using fetal tissue for the same purpose in the wake of the deceptively edited videos released by the discredited anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress. He even launched a campaign to defund the reproductive health-care provider after the misleading videos were released.
Newt Gingrich, who is reportedly also being considered for secretary of state, has been criticized by Republicans in the past for not opposing abortion as stringently as they’d prefer him to. But in 2012, as a GOP presidential contender, he vowed to ban stem-cell research, claiming it was “the use of science to desensitize society over the killing of babies” and questioned the ethics of in vitro fertilization.
That same election cycle, Gingrich also came out in support of fetal “personhood,” though laws based on it could effectively ban many forms of contraception as well as abortions. He also suggested that if he were elected president, he wouldn’t obey laws set by the U.S. Supreme Court and would seek to intimidate judges who disagreed with him.
Republican Rick Scott has served as the governor of Florida since 2011. He has rejected attempts to increase access to health care for those with low incomes through Medicaid expansion and overseen a bevy of attempts to restrict abortion care and other reproductive health services. During his first term, he signed into law a forced ultrasound bill, restrictions on later abortions, and a measure based on the myth of the “infant born alive” after an abortion.
An expansive omnibus anti-choice bill, HB 1411, was signed into law by Scott in March of this year. The measure included restrictions on the disposal of fetal remains; redefined the third trimester of pregnancy; imposed abortion reporting requirements; banned state funding for abortion care; and instituted unnecessary clinic inspection and admitting privilege requirements. The funding ban and clinic inspection provisions of the bill were blocked in August by a federal judge.
Under Jindal’s gubernatorial leadership, Louisiana was consistently named the most anti-choice state in the country. Between Jindal and the state’s GOP-dominated legislature, nearly every measure to restrict abortion services out of existence passed while he was in office.
Those laws included a 20-week abortion ban based on the medically dubious claim that a fetus can feel pain at that point in a pregnancy; a requirement that doctors performing abortions receive admitting privileges from hospitals; a ban on telemedicine abortion; and an informed consent and waiting period law that requires doctors to give patients seeking abortion care misleading or false information and have them wait at least 24 hours before an abortion.
Jindal’s record on public health also includes his steadfast refusal to sign Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and presiding over some of the highest rates of unintended teen pregnancy and infant mortality in the country.
Mike Huckabee, now being considered for secretary of commerce, has long been one of Republicans’ most vocal and extreme anti-choice politicians. While contending for the GOP presidential nomination this election season, Huckabee vowed to use “personhood” to work around Roe v. Wade and make abortion illegal in the United States, and suggested that, if elected, he would consider using federal troops to stop women from having abortions. He also voiced opposition to a 10-year-old rape survivor obtaining an abortion in Paraguay, claiming that it would “compound a tragedy by taking yet another life.”
Huckabee is perhaps most notorious for saying in 2014 that Democrats “insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government.”
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R), who is being considered for secretary of the interior, has made no secret of her anti-choice leanings. With the aid of a GOP-dominated state legislature, Fallin has signed numerous pieces of legislation into law to make accessing reproductive health care more difficult in Oklahoma. That includes a 72-hour waiting period and a bill mandating that the state health department and local schools hand out information that “clearly and consistently teach[es] that abortion kills a living human being.”
Though Fallin did veto a bill that would have effectively banned abortion in the state and charged doctors who performed them with a felony, she made clear that her decision to do so was made because the law was “vague”—not because of her views on abortion. “While I consistently have and continue to support a re-examination of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, this legislation cannot accomplish that re-examination,” wrote Fallin in her veto message. “In fact, the most direct path to a re-examination of the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade is the appointment of a conservative, pro-life justice to the United States Supreme Court.”
She has also refused to expand Medicaid in her state.
Sarah Palin, who may also be considered to head the Department of the Interior, says she is “unapologetic” about her extreme opposition to abortion. When asked by journalist Katie Couric in 2008 about whether she supports exceptions for rape and incest, Palin said she “would counsel the person to choose life.” She also said she personally opposes the use of emergency contraceptives.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) could be named attorney general or director of the Office of Management and Budget. According to anti-choice group National Right to Life, Sessions voted with them in all 69 votes scored, including on measures to defund Planned Parenthood, repeal the ACA, and various other restrictions and bans on funding for abortion care. He also co-sponsored the medically unsupported “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” and a measure to strip Planned Parenthood of funding. He was an original co-sponsor of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, legislation based on a misleading and non-medical term coined by anti-choice activists to make abortion restrictions easier to pass.