President Trump will reportedly appoint a notorious birth control foe to helm the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) office charged with ensuring people with low incomes have access to family planning services.
Politico first reported that Teresa Manning is Trump’s top pick to run the Office of Population Affairs (OPA). Rewire confirmed Manning is listed as deputy assistant secretary for population affairs in the HHS employee directory.
According to its webpage, OPA “administers the Title X program and serves as the focal point to advise the secretary and the assistant secretary for health on a wide range of reproductive health topics, including family planning, adolescent pregnancy, sterilization, and other population issues.” But Manning’s publicly stated views on contraception undercut her duty to administer about $286 million in federal Title X family planning funds to assist some of the nation’s most vulnerable populations.
In a 2003 interview with NPR-affiliate WBUR, Manning, who went by Teresa Wagner at the time, dismissed pro-choice advocates who point out that offering access to comprehensive contraceptive care can reduce the number of abortions. The segment examined “pro-life views” in the shadow of Roe v. Wade. “There really is no evidence to support that,” Manning falsely claimed, later adding that “contraception doesn’t work” and that “its efficacy is very low.”
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During a 2003 media appearance promoting Back to the Drawing Board: The Future of the Pro-Life Movement, a book she edited, Manning claimed that “family planning is something that occurs between a husband and a wife and God. And it doesn’t really involve the federal government.”
Manning notoriously made headlines when she filed a lawsuit alleging that the University of Iowa’s law school had illegally discriminated against her when they did not hire her for a teaching position. The lawsuit reportedly claimed that the school had decided against hiring her based on her political views, a suggestion the university’s staffers denied. A federal jury ruled against Manning in 2015.
She has worked as a lobbyist for anti-choice group National Right to Life Committee and as a “sanctity of life analyst” at the Family Research Council, an organization deemed an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Manning’s anticipated appointment follows the Trump administration’s recent blow to family planning services. Trump in April signed off on congressional Republicans’ push to shred Obama-era safeguards intended to stop state-level interference in federal funding for family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood affiliates—the real target of the GOP’s ire over the health-care organization providing abortion care with its own funds.
Doing so, however, hinders the ability of four million Title X patients, including 1.5 million Planned Parenthood patients, to access quality, affordable health care and by HHS’ accounting, disproportionately impacts people of color. Of the four million Title X patients in 2015, 30 percent self-identified as Black or African American, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, or American Indian or Alaska Native; 32 percent self-identified as Hispanic or Latino; and 13 percent had limited English proficiency.
Family planning services again face GOP opposition in the upcoming fiscal year 2018 appropriations process. Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have repeatedly wielded the appropriations process against Title X funding.
“President Trump already attacked the Title X family planning program earlier this year by eliminating important protections that helped women access birth control and basic health services. Now we’re hearing that he plans to take his assault on the program one step further by putting Teresa Manning, an extreme anti-choice activist, in charge of overseeing the office that administers Title X,” Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY), co-chairs of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, said in a statement.
“We are deeply concerned about what this development means for four million women and men who rely on Title X.”
Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, echoed that sentiment.
“This is the fox guarding the hen house, and women with low incomes will pay the price,” Laguens said in a statement calling on Trump to rescind the appointment.
“It is a cruel irony to appoint an opponent of birth control to oversee the nation’s only federal program dedicated to family planning,” she said. “Teresa Manning’s appointment is unacceptable. Planned Parenthood calls on the Trump administration to withdraw Teresa Manning’s appointment.”
Clare Coleman, president and CEO of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, urged caution about the reported hire in a statement. “Given Ms. Manning’s professional history, we have serious concerns about her vision for the family planning safety net and the millions of people who rely on it for care every year,” said Coleman, who added that the organization is “willing to partner with anyone in the administration to strengthen and protect the family planning safety net and look forward to working with Ms. Manning to support and strengthen the Title X family planning community.”
Manning’s hire comes just after the White House announced that prominent anti-choice activist Charmaine Yoest was selected to serve as as assistant secretary for public affairs at HHS. Yoest was head of Americans United for Life, an anti-choice legislation mill producing copycat targeted regulation of abortion provider (TRAP) bills across the country to restrict access to reproductive rights.