News Politics

HHS Hires Former Lawmaker Who Peddled Misinformation About Abortion

Ally Boguhn

While in Congress, Fleming co-sponsored numerous anti-choice measures, including the House’s 20-week abortion ban predicated on the dubious claim that a fetus feels pain.

Former U.S. Rep. John Fleming (R-LA), who notoriously cited an article from a satirical site in order to criticize Planned Parenthood, has accepted a position at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as deputy assistant secretary for health technology, according to multiple news sources.

While in Congress, Fleming was a member of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of ultra-conservative lawmakers seeking to push the Republican Party further to the right. He co-sponsored numerous anti-choice measures, including the U.S. House of Representative’s 20-week abortion ban predicated on the dubious claim that a fetus feels pain at that point in a pregnancy.

“At 20 weeks maybe sooner, the baby feels pain,” said Fleming in 2013 on the House floor, according to NPR. “And so I would just submit to you today Mr. Speaker; this bill is not just about abortion; it’s about pain, it’s about torture to that young life.”

Fleming’s assertion is contrary to the consensus of major medical groups and experts who, as Rewire has previously reported, “agree that a fetus has not developed to the point where it can feel pain” until later in a pregnancy.

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In a 2012 post to his Facebook page, Fleming linked to an article from the satirical site the Onion, adding it was proof that Planned Parenthood was doing “abortion by the wholesale.” He later deleted his post.

The position at HHS does not require confirmation from the U.S. Senate, and Fleming “will report directly to [HHS Secretary Tom] Price, at least for now,” reported the Times-Picayune. Fleming told the outlet that the role would allow him to improve the way doctors interact with technology.

“It’s clear there’s a lot of work to do, and they’re anxious to get somebody in place and start activating this,” he told the Times-Picayune.

Like Fleming, HHS Secretary Price has a long history of pushing anti-choice ideology in Congress, having co-sponsored measures attempting to defund Planned Parenthood and ban later abortions. Despite his background as a physician, Price was a member of a fringe association that ignored medical consensus to falsely promote a link between breast cancer and abortion.

As the head of HHS, Price could roll back the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit. He suggested in 2012 that “there’s not one” person who would be unable to afford contraception without it.

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