Trump’s choice for health secretary signals trouble for abortion and birth control access
In case there was any question how women’s rights might be impacted by the incoming administration, Donald Trump’s pick of Tom Price to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, announced Monday, may provide some clarity.
Price, an orthopedic surgeon and six-term Republican congressman from Georgia, has a long history of opposing abortion and reproductive rights. He has voted against allowing any federal funding to go toward abortion for any reason, wants to cut funding for stem cell research, and worked to block access to many common types of birth control. He has also sponsored measures to defund family planning assistance groups that provide abortions, including Planned Parenthood, which he accused of engaging in “barbaric practices.” He twice co-sponsored Right to Life legislation that would give zygotes full legal protection under the Constitution, thus outlawing any type of abortion or emergency contraception.
And in 2013 he voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.
Price has a 0 percent rating from Planned Parenthood and a 100 percent rating from National Right to Life.
Reproductive rights groups immediately slammed Trump’s choice of Price. The CEO of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, said in a statement that he is “out of touch with women’s lives“ and “poses a grave threat to women’s health in this country.”
Sasha Bruce, the senior vp of statement from NARAL Pro-Choice America, also opposed Price. “For the 7 in 10 Americans who support legal access to abortion, this is an incredibly alarming pick,” Bruce said in a statement.
As health secretary, Price would be in charge of a massive federal department that has a budget of about $80 billion and employs nearly 80,000 people. It oversees the Food and Drug Administration, Medicare, Medicaid, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health, among others.
Pro-life advocates cheered Price’s pick, however. Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser called Price “an excellent choice” for health secretary, who “will play a key role in developing a robust health care reform proposal that protects life and consciences.”
Price’s cabinet selection is just the latest indicator of how the incoming Trump administration will likely approach women’s healthcare and reproductive rights over the next four years.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence may be the only person in Trump’s cabinet whose views on abortion are more extreme than Price’s. As governor of Indiana, Pence signed into law some of the most restrictive abortion regulations in the country, including a measure requiring fetal remains be buried or cremated, rather than disposed of as medical waste. That bill was so controversial that even some pro-life Republicans spoke out against it.
In a Trump administration, “we’ll see Roe v. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history, where it belongs,” Pence vowed in September. Trump has also said he wants to repeal Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision guaranteeing a woman’s right to abortion. (The president-elect has also said women who get abortions should face “some form of punishment.”)
Aside from his conservative social views, Price is probably best known in Congress for his virulent opposition to the Affordable Care Act. He has introduced legislation to replace it every year since it was passed. In 2015, he introduced a bill that would repeal the healthcare program and replace government subsidies with age-adjusted tax credits for people to purchase coverage. He is also in favor of slashing funding to Medicaid and wants to privatize Medicare.
Price has taken particular issue with the Obamacare provision that requires all employers and insurance companies to provide birth control to women at no cost. He has said he doesn’t think a cut to that particular program would impact any low-income women. In a 2012 interview with ThinkProgress, Price said “there’s not one” woman who wouldn’t be able to access birth control if it wasn’t covered for free. Multiple studies have shown that claim to be off by a factor of several million. According to a study by the nonpartisan Guttmacher Institute, more than 20 million women relied on publicly funded family planning services in 2014, an increase of 1 million since 2010. Another study, commissioned by Planned Parenthood, found that one in three women struggled to afford birth control in their lifetimes.
Price’s two biggest stances — moral opposition to abortion and limited government approach toward healthcare — occasionally contradict each other.
In an interview on Fox News last month, Price said government shouldn’t control how people make decisions about their own health.
We need a healthcare system in which “patients and families and doctors are making medical decisions,” he said. “Not your federal government, not Washington, D.C.”
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Cover: (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)