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Trump Appoints Birth Control Skeptic to Oversee Birth Control Program

Teresa Manning in 2003: "Of course, contraception doesn't work."
Jim Watson / Getty Images

What's scarier than someone who doesn't believe in a woman's right to abortion? Someone who doesn't believe in choice OR in birth control.

Well hold on to your ovaries: Politico reports that the Trump administration has appointed Teresa Manning, a woman whose views fall inside this terrifying Venn diagram, to serve as the deputy assistant secretary for population affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In this role, Manning will not only oversee the distribution of federal family planning funds via the program known as Title X, she'll also help advise HHS secretary Tom Price on national policy about family planning, contraception, and teen pregnancy. So, an anti-abortion, anti-birth control zealot would be in a position of power in decisions about abortion and birth control. Great. Manning (née Wagner) has a long, storied history of bashing birth control. In a 2003 radio interview she said, "Of course, contraception doesn't work. Its efficacy is very low," despite the fact that prescription birth control methods are 91 to 99 percent effective with typical use and even higher with perfect use. She believes that emergency contraception (aka the morning-after pill) causes abortions by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus while the medical definition of pregnancy doesn't even begin until implantation. Manning claimed in 2001 that a "a major, if not dominant, mechanism" of the morning-after pill was preventing implantation. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists begs to differ, saying these pills "function primarily, if not exclusively, by inhibiting ovulation, thereby preventing fertilization from occurring."


She previously worked for two anti-abortion groups: as a legislative analyst for the Family Research Council and as a lobbyist for Americans United for Life, the group behind boilerplate legislation that dozens of states have used to enact abortion restrictions. She's also written that there's an "undisputed" link between abortion and breast cancer, which is patently false. The White House would not confirm the appointment to Politico, but Manning's name is already listed in the HHS employee directory and The Hill later confirmed the news.

Title X's $286 million budget helps provide family planning services including birth control and STD screenings to low-income and uninsured people. Clinics funded by the Title X program served 3.8 million women in 2015; 1.5 million of whom got their care at Planned Parenthood.

A report released last week from the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute noted that clinics that received Title X funding prevented 822,300 unintended pregnancies in 2015, averting 387,200 unplanned births and 277,800 abortions. The report concluded that "Without the services provided by Title X-funded clinics, the US unintended pregnancy, unplanned birth and abortion rates would each have been 31 percent higher, and the rate for women aged 15–19 would have been 44 percent higher."

Trump has already attacked Title X by reversing an Obama-era protection which ensured that states couldn't block providers from receiving grants for any reason besides their ability to provide family planning services. Translation: Obama said states couldn't exclude clinics for doing things they find objectionable, like providing abortions. But since it's already illegal to use federal funds for most abortions, all Trump did was take away money for birth control and other health services.

Planned Parenthood executive vice president Dawn Laguens called Manning's appointment a "cruel irony," saying in an emailed statement that "someone who promotes myths about birth control and reproductive care should not be in charge of the office that is responsible for family planning at HHS."

The news came days after the administration announced that anti-choice activist Charmaine Yoest, a former president and CEO of Americans United for Life, would become the assistant secretary for public affairs at HHS. Yoest incorrectly believes that IUDs cause abortion. Meanwhile, health Secretary Tom Price vehemently opposes the the Affordable Care Act's birth control coverage mandate and can rewrite that requirement as he sees fit.

What we have here is the makings of a perfect storm to drastically reduce access to birth control and abortion—at the same time as Republicans work to unravel the social safety net with massive cuts to programs like Medicaid. These changes don't just affect women, they affect children and families all across the country.

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