How Democrats Plan to Counter Team Trump’s Anti-Choice Misinformation

A Democratic aide warned that HHS appointees' “history of spreading misinformation” about abortion care and birth control “could be replicated now that they’re working in these official capacities.”

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) circulated a memo about two HHS appointees: Charmaine Yoest, who makes the evidence-free charge that abortion causes breast cancer, and Theresa Manning, who has said “contraception doesn’t work." Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Democrats in the U.S. Senate are hoping they have the receipts to stop the anti-choice extremists in the nation’s top public health roles from spreading misinformation about reproductive health care.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) on Monday circulated an 11-page staff memo about the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Charmaine Yoest, who has made the evidence-free claim that abortion causes breast cancer, and Teresa Manning, who has said “contraception doesn’t work.” Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, flagged Yoest’s and Manning’s track records for other Democrats on the committee.

“Their appointments heighten my serious concerns about efforts taken thus far by the Trump administration on women’s health,” Murray said in a letter accompanying the memo.

Murray’s “serious concerns” include President Trump’s dramatic expansion of the global gag rule; his budget’s plan to completely “defund”  Planned Parenthood, cutting off the health-care organization from Medicaid reimbursements, Title X family planning funding, and Violence Against Women Act grants that already face massive cuts despite the administration’s claims to the contrary; and his administration’s imminent blow to Obamacare’s popular birth control benefit.

“President Trump’s appointments are a clear signal that we can unfortunately expect these efforts to continue—and a reminder of the need to stay vigilant in our oversight,” Murray said.

Yoest and Manning are not the only anti-choice extremists rising to power under HHS Secretary Tom Price, who believes “there’s not one” woman who can’t afford birth control. The Trump administration won’t stop filling HHS with purveyors of anti-choice misinformation, including, most recently, former GOP Colorado Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, former Family Research Council Chief of Staff Shannon Royce, and former GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers (NC).

A senior Democratic aide warned that Yoest’s and Manning’s “history of spreading misinformation” documented in the memo “could be replicated now that they’re working in these official capacities.”

“It’s particularly important to make sure that people have the information to take that context into consideration, should the administration make dramatic policy changes or provide information that’s misleading,” the aide told Rewire in an interview.

Democrats can harness that information to make what could be easy political victories for Republicans and the White House anything but. The aide, for example, pointed to Democrats’ public resistance to shredding Title X family planning protections, requiring two tie-breaking votes from Vice President Mike Pence to pass the Senate.  

Credible information could help Democrats counter habitual GOP-led efforts to wield the appropriations process against Title X and rebut any potential misinformation in Price’s scheduled budget testimony this week before the Senate Finance Committee.

“Having this sort of information is really important when you’re faced with threats like that,” the aide said.