Democrats Want to Know Who Helped Craft the Trump Administration’s Domestic Gag Rule

Wednesday's letter follows several instances of the Trump administration coordinating with anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ rights groups to create policy.

[Photo: Alex Azar stands in front of podium.]
With Alex Azar at the helm, HHS has repeatedly leveled attacks on access to abortion care and reproductive health care.  Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Congressional Democrats sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday requesting documents about the Trump administration’s proposed Title X domestic gag rule.

The letter, signed by all 18 Democratic members of the U.S. House Oversight Committee, requests documents detailing the actions of HHS staff in regards to the proposed rule, including communications and meeting schedules between agency staff and non-governmental entities.

“This is not the first time the Trump administration has sought to curtail the reproductive rights of women and their access to information,” the letter said. It described a February letter from Oversight Committee ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) to HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan detailing a whistleblower’s account that anti-choice group Alliance Defending Freedom was behind an effort to allow states to terminate family planning providers from Medicaid programs.

The Trump administration’s proposed domestic “gag rule” is an anti-choice regulation directed at the federal Title X family planning program. It would eliminate a requirement that clinics receiving Title X funding offer counseling and referrals for all pregnancy options; require “physical and financial separation of abortion related activities from Title X project activities”; and prohibit “Title X projects from engaging in activities that encourage, promote, or advocate abortion.”

The Trump administration has long coordinated with anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ rights groups to create policy. Last July, Vice President Mike Pence denied he had met with anti-choice groups despite tweeting a photo of the meeting in progress. The meeting was not listed on Pence’s daily schedule.

Shortly after the White House released its written policy banning transgender troops from the military, Slate and ThinkProgress reported that the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan T. Anderson and other anti-trans activists coordinated with Pence to write the discriminatory policy.

Many top HHS administrators have worked at anti-choice organizations. Since they were hired, the agency has repeatedly leveled attacks on access to abortion care and reproductive health care.