Steven Valentine, who has a background in anti-choice advocacy, was promoted this week to chief of staff for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Valentine’s promotion was announced Monday in a tweet pushed out by spokespeople for the agency’s assistant secretary for public affairs. In an email to staff provided to Rewire.News, Assistant Secretary for Health Brett P. Giroir noted that Valentine had “been acting in this role since April.” Giroir said the department “would not be where we are as an office if not for his dedicated efforts and selfless service.”
OASH houses the Office of Population Affairs, which oversees the Title X family planning program, and the Office of Adolescent Health, which oversees the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP). HHS did not answer a question from Rewire.News asking for clarification on what Valentine’s new role will include.
Reproductive health and rights advocates criticized the decision to promote Valentine, calling attention to his background in the anti-choice movement.
“The promotion of Steven Valentine is part and parcel of Alex Azar’s preference for stacking HHS with anti-choice hardliners,” Mary Alice Carter, executive director of Equity Forward, said in a statement. “Steven Valentine has spent his entire career working for officials and organizations that seek to criminalize women’s access to safe and legal abortion, including the extreme and out-of-touch [Susan B. Anthony] List.
“Alex Azar must stop hiring and then elevating ideologues whose sole purpose is to undermine the reproductive health programs they oversee,” Carter said. “Those in charge of our nation’s public health programs should focus on expanding our health care options, not gutting them.”
As Carter noted, Valentine served as interim legislative director of the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List from February to September 2011. In that position, according to a copy of his resume obtained by Equity Forward, Valentine “researched past and pending legislation … drafted action alerts to organization members and activists, and drafted talking points for policymakers and activists.”
Valentine later worked as a staff assistant and then as a legislative assistant to Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), chairman of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus. In the latter position, Valentine worked to “formulate legislative initiatives, devise a legislative plan, and draft into legislation.” During Valentine’s time in Smith’s office, the congressman introduced numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation, including a failed attempt to restrict Title X federal family planning funding from going to most health-care providers that also offered abortion services.
Documents obtained in March 2018 through Freedom of Information Act requests by nonprofit law firm and advocacy group Democracy Forward show that, while in the position, Valentine worked to implement an anti-choice agenda. According to the documents, later obtained by NBC, internal notes from HHS revealed Valentine had “taken the lead” in working to dismantle the TPPP.
His brother, Billy Valentine, works at the Susan B. Anthony List as its vice president of public policy. He also lobbies on behalf of the organization. The Susan B. Anthony List’s publicly available lobbying records show he has lobbied HHS about the Title X program.
The amount the organization has spent on lobbying efforts has sharply risen since the Trump administration, which has a relationship with the group, came into power, according to a May report from Politico. Susan B. Anthony List’s “spending on lobbying has grown from between $270,000 and $500,000 a year between 2013 and 2016 to $740,000 last year. It’s spent $220,000 in the first quarter of 2018 alone,” Politico said.
The Susan B. Anthony List did not respond to an inquiry from Rewire.News about whether Billy Valentine’s work has any crossover with the policies Steven Valentine may work on at OASH.
Steven Valentine’s new role was once held by abstinence-only advocate Valerie Huber, who now serves as senior policy advisor at OASH and has been tasked with creating a four-year strategic plan for the office. Both are members of a long list of anti-choice advocates given key roles at HHS under the Trump administration.