Posted in Politico
By RACHANA PRADHAN | 04/28/17 10:32 AM EDT | Updated 04/28/17 03:03 PM EDT
President Donald Trump on Friday said he would name one of the most prominent anti-abortion activists in the country to a top communications post at HHS.
Charmaine Yoest, tapped to be assistant secretary of public affairs, is a senior fellow at American Values. She is the former president of Americans United for Life, which has been instrumental in advancing anti-abortion legislation at the state level to restrict access to the procedure.
Trump names anti-abortion leader Yoest to top HHS post – POLITICO 4/29/17, 6*06 PM
Her appointment was quickly panned by Democratic lawmakers and prominent abortion rights organizations. The assistant secretary of public affairs shapes communications efforts for the entire agency.
“Ms. Yoest has a long record of seeking to undermine women’s access to health care and safe, legal abortion by distorting the facts, and her selection shows yet again that this administration is pandering to extreme conservatives and ignoring the millions of men and women nationwide who support women’s constitutionally protected health care rights and don’t want to go backward,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a statement.
AUL’s website — which states that the group offers state lawmakers 32 different pieces of model legislation to restrict access to abortion — characterizes Yoest as “public enemy #1” for abortion rights organizations.
“It is unacceptable that someone with a history of promoting myths and false information about women’s health is appointed to a government position whose main responsibility is to provide the public with accurate and factual information,” added Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood.
Yoest’s appointment comes at a time when states with Republican governors and GOP-dominated legislatures have enacted a wave of new abortion restrictions, many of which have been blocked in court.
States on average added 57 new abortion restrictions annually between 2011 and 2015, a pace that picked up dramatically following the 2010 midterm elections, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.
Republicans currently control both chambers of state legislatures in 32 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Thirty-three states have GOP governors.
Trump has already moved to give anti-abortion groups a win during his first 100 days in office, although Congress has not gained traction fulfilling one of its top priorities: scrapping Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding.
Trump recently signed into law a resolution overturning an Obama-era rule designed to protect Title X family planning grants for Planned Parenthood. HHS during the Obama administration said 13 states since 2011 have taken actions to restrict participation by family planning providers in Title X because they provide abortions.
Several red states have also tried to cut Planned Parenthood out of their Medicaid programs — a strategy that picked up two years ago in response to the release of a series of undercover videos by anti-abortion activists concerning Planned Parenthood and fetal tissue donation. Those defunding efforts have been halted in court.
Yoest isn’t the only Trump administration appointee who has expressed critical views about abortion and other social issues. Katy Talento, a health aide for the White House Domestic Policy Council, has taken the controversial view that contraception poses major dangers to women and causes abortion and miscarriages.
Yoest is an HHS political appointee but her appointment does not require Senate confirmation. She succeeds Kevin Griffis, who was recently named vice president of communications for Planned Parenthood.
“The fact that Yoest will be replacing Kevin Griffis, who now works for Planned Parenthood, is another indication of the dramatic change we’ve seen in Washington since the election of President Trump,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement. “This is a new era for the pro-life movement and our fight to protect unborn children and their mothers from the horror of abortion.”