Tom Price, the public health chief who believes “there’s not one” woman who can’t afford birth control, is out at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as other virulently anti-choice candidates are reportedly in the running to take over the job.
The Trump administration is considering Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator (CMS) Seema Verma, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, and former Louisiana GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal, according to a Friday morning Axios report.
The candidates would presumably pick up where Price left off in his quest to blow up the Affordable Care Act’s popular birth control benefit guaranteeing contraception without co-pay to some 62.4 million cisgender women and an untold number of transgender and gender nonconforming people.
Verma stood by Trump’s side as he signed off on congressional Republicans’ plan to undermine Obama-era Title X safeguards intended to stop state-level interference in the federal funding stream for family planning clinics. A leaked draft obtained by Vox listed CMS as one of the government arms involved in the unraveling of the benefit.
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Gottlieb has attempted to stoke fears about the birth control benefit, falsely claiming that under President Obama’s signature health-care law, women “risk losing far more than they’ll gain.” And Jindal falsely claimed the Obama administration limited, rather than expanded, access to birth control, according to a 2012 report by journalist Irin Carmon for Salon. Two years later, Jindal signed an omnibus anti-abortion bill in Louisiana.
By late Friday afternoon, Price tendered his resignation to the White House as the reported price tag for his taxpayer-funded travels exceeded $1 million. Politico first uncovered that Price had taken more than $400,000 worth of charter flights, rather than readily available commercial flights, then found that the outgoing secretary traveled abroad, with the White House’s approval and with his wife by his side, on military jets that cost taxpayers another $500,000–plus. Price offered to reimburse the federal government for a mere fraction of the charter flights only.
Price was a budget hawk during his time in the U.S. Congress. He gave up a plum House Budget Committee chairmanship for the HHS top spot. Charmaine Yoest, the former Americans United for Life president charged with overseeing the agency’s messaging, had the job of defending Price in the news as the scandal unfolded.
With Price’s ouster, Yoest remains one of the most high-profile anti-choice extremists in an agency stacked with officials who tout failed abstinence-only education and distort or deny the scientifically proven efficacy of birth control. Teresa Manning, the notorious birth control foe nevertheless charged with administering Title X funds to ensure people with low incomes can access family planning services, claims that “family planning is something that occurs between a husband and a wife and God” and isn’t a matter for the federal government.