Investigations Science

Trump Administration at Odds With Scientists and Advocates

Sharona Coutts

In particular, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price is connected to the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, an extreme libertarian doctors group that espouses many of the lies about abortion safety long rejected by the medical and scientific communities.

This weekend’s March for Science will take on special significance for advocates of reproductive rights, given the anti-choice views held by several key members of the Trump administration, as National Advocates for Pregnant Women founder Lynn Paltrow argued Thursday.

The marches, which are scheduled to take place nationwide this Saturday, are nonpartisan events that call for governments to make policy based on sound scientific evidence, and to fund scientific research for the common good.

They have particular resonance for reproductive rights not just because of the junk “science” that has been enshrined in statutes around the country, but because of the beliefs and connections of those now charged with making federal health policy.

In particular, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tom Price is connected to the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, an extreme libertarian doctors group that espouses many of the lies about abortion safety long rejected by the medical and scientific communities.

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In the current edition of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, the group once again lends support to the myth that abortion causes breast cancer, calling induced abortion “conducive to breast cancer.”

In the past, the group has taken outlandish positions on many issues, falsely claiming that unauthorized immigrants caused an outbreak of leprosy in the United States; that vaccines are linked to autism; and casting doubt over whether HIV causes AIDS.

But it was the association’s strident opposition to the Affordable Care Act in 2009 that seems to have created the closest connections with Price, then a representative for Georgia’s 6th congressional district.

Price, a medical doctor, served as a speaker or panelist at several of the group’s events in the lead-up to the congressional vote on the ACA, according to press releases by the doctors group and news reports. As a legislator, he gave full-throated support to the group’s free-market view of medicine, which rejects virtually any role for government in providing support for the delivery of health care and labels participating in Medicare or Medicaid “immoral.”

Price’s opposition to the ACA underpinned his efforts to propose a replacement in the form of several bills he drafted, including the Empowering Patients First Act. While they never passed, Price’s bills won him a reputation among Republicans as a thought leader on health-care reform, and became a major qualification for his nomination as health secretary.

Price also subscribes to the group’s virulent anti-choice stance, though he has distanced himself from its debunked claims about the link between abortion and breast cancer.

He was also forced to distance himself from the group’s stance on childhood vaccines, under strong questioning during his confirmation hearings in January. However, Price did not say whether he supports mandatory vaccination of children. The debunked claim that vaccines cause autism is just one of the conspiracy theories to which President Donald Trump apparently adheres.

Price is not the only member of the Trump administration with ties to the extremist doctors group. Dr. Ben Carson, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, has also been linked to the association, and like Price, holds a variety of anti-choice views. Nor is Price the only new HHS official whose categorical anti-choice positions are based at least in part on anti-choice claims rejected by the scientific community.

Given the preponderance of anti-choice advocates surrounding the president, the March for Science’s support for policies based on scientific and medical research, instead of on ideology, has a special resonance for proponents of reproductive rights.

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