On Friday, President Trump appointed longtime antiabortion activist Charmaine Yoest to serve as assistant secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) for public affairs.
As the former president and CEO of Americans United for Life (AUL), Yoest spearheaded much of the antiabortion movement’s policy orientations and actions over recent years, which is exactly why key reproductive rights advocates are crying foul today.
Trump names activist who insists abortion causes cancer to top HHS comms post – really? Extreme alternative facts. https://t.co/Yvh3rK9YSA
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) April 28, 2017
A thread on the danger Charmaine Yoest poses to reproductive freedom: https://t.co/Ilo2d9msRb
— Evette Dionne ???? (@freeblackgirl) April 28, 2017
Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation America, said in a statement, “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.”
There are six main reasons why reproductive health advocates are so concerned by Yoest.
1. Charmaine Yoest is associated with the now-discounted Planned Parenthood ‘sting’ videos
The congressional investigations of Planned Parenthood sparked by the now-discounted “sting” videos released by antiabortion activist group the Center for Medical Progress that dominated headlines the past two years have a direct through-line to Yoest and her work at Americans United for Life. Even the work of CMP founder David Daleiden — who is now facing felony charges in California as a result of his videos — is directly linked to AUL, which served in an advisory capacity to the CMP.
2. And she’s been fighting Planned Parenthood for years
Likewise, the current rash of legislation in the states to block funding from going to Planned Parenthood as reimbursement for services rendered through the Medicaid and Title X programs and to restrict women’s access to abortion care (including the now-infamous transvaginal ultrasound bills) also goes back to Yoest’s work at AUL.
3. Even spreading false info on abortion funding
One of Yoest’s most notable moves against the reproductive rights movement can be seen in AUL’s responsibility for the launch of the investigation of Planned Parenthood in 2011 by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (E&C) that was sparked by the Yoest-directed AUL report “The Case for Investigating Planned Parenthood.” And it was this investigation that led Susan G. Komen — formerly known as Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation — to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings. At the time, Yoest told the Washington Post that this was “some of the best news of my entire life.”
Yoest, a breast-cancer survivor, was largely motivated to see Komen end its relationship with Planned Parenthood because of her opposition to abortion — even though not only were no Komen funds being used for abortion, but no federal funds were either as a result of the Hyde Amendment.
AUL also drafted model legislation requiring doctors to tell patients the false information that there was a connection between abortion care and breast cancer.
4. Because she wants to make abortion illegal, even in cases of rape and incest
Indeed, Yoest’s opposition to allowing anyone to access safe, legal abortion based on medical needs or personal beliefs is well-documented. In 2012, the New York Times reported that Yoest’s “end goal isn’t to make abortion safer. She wants to make the procedure illegal. She leaves no room for exceptions in the case of rape or incest or to preserve the health of the mother. She believes that embryos have legal rights and opposes birth control, like the IUD, that she thinks ‘has life-ending properties.'”
5. She’s against the morning-after pill and some IUDs
But it’s not only abortion that AUL has campaigned against. The group has also worked to block access to both the morning-after pill and two types of intrauterine devices, which have been proven to be the most effective forms of contraception.
6. IVF, too
According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, under Yoest’s leadership, AUL also advocated for personhood measures that would define a “person” as a fertilized egg, thus effectively banning not only abortion but stem cell research and in vitro fertilization (IVF); 20-week bans on abortion, an arbitrary point, medically, in fetal development and a point at which a fetus is not able to detect pain; and laws mandating biased counseling and mandatory delays before accessing abortion care that have no medical basis or necessity and are designed to shame and stigmatize women seeking abortion care.
Americans United for Life was also a critical driving force behind HB2, the Texas law since found by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional that forced the majority of the state’s abortion providers to shut their doors.
Needless to say, women’s health advocates aren’t happy
In a statement, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee, said of Yoest’s appointment, “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 Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said today that Yoest’s nomination “should deeply concern the vast majority of Americans who believe abortion should be legal and accessible, and please anti-choice extremists who are committed to punishing women at every turn.”
Read more from Yahoo Beauty + Style:
- What It Was Like to Have an Abortion Before Roe v. Wade
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- What Happened to the Birth Rate When Texas Defunded Planned Parenthood