Trump picks former anti-abortion leader for health and human services post

Molly Redden in New York
Charmaine Yoest framed abortion restrictions as necessary to protect women’s health, although the medical evidence for such claims was often dubious. Photograph: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

Donald Trump has appointed the former president of a leading anti-abortion group to the top communications role at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS).

Charmaine Yoest, who for several years was head of Americans United for Life (AUL), will be HHS assistant secretary for public affairs. AUL played an instrumental role in the recent wave of anti-abortion laws by feeding model legislation to state lawmakers.

Under Yoest, the group pushed model bills that outlawed abortion after 20 weeks, required abortion providers to gain admitting privileges at local hospitals, and mandated counseling and waiting periods for women seeking abortions. AUL is also opposed to the use of the morning-after pill and IUDs.

Between 2010 and 2016, states have enacted 288 restrictions on abortion. The AUL directly credits its own work for several dozen of those laws. Its model legislation may have inspired countless more. Abortion rights advocates have managed to block many such measures in court.

As AUL president, Yoest played a key role in framing abortion restrictions as necessary to protect women’s health, although the medical evidence for such claims was often dubious. AUL’s ultimate goal is to end abortion.

Since leaving AUL, in 2016, Yoest has been a senior fellow at American Values, an anti-abortion, anti-same-sex marriage nonprofit. In her new role, she will set communications strategy for the entire health department.

The agency is headed by another staunch opponent of reproductive rights, former Georgia congressman Tom Price, who as chair of the House budget committee oversaw passage of a measure that defunded Planned Parenthood.

Price has also voiced hostility toward the requirement, put in place by the Obama administration, that health insurance plans cover contraception with no co-pay, once challenging a reporter to “bring me one woman” who struggled to afford contraception on her own.

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