In my feature on the future of the Affordable Care Act, I brought up the Trump administration's problematic habit of appointing people to jobs they're sure to undermine—like putting Medicaid foe Seema Verma in charge of Medicaid, or appointing Roger Severino, who has a history of anti-LGBT bigotry, to the Office of Civil Rights.
One of the newest additions to this motley crew of incompetents is Charmaine Yoest, who was announced on Friday as the administration's pick for the Department of Health and Human Services' assistant secretary for public affairs.
Here's Talking Points Memo:
Yoest is currently a fellow at American Values, a conservative group that opposes abortion and supports “traditional marriage.” She got her start in politics during the Reagan administration. From there she moved to the ultra-conservative Family Research Council and later served on Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential campaign.
While she served as president of Americans United for Life, one of the most well-known anti-abortion groups in the country, Yoest was a prominent leader for the anti-abortion movement. As the New York Times noted in a 2012 profile of Yoest, AUL was responsible for one-third of state legislatures’ anti-abortion bills between 2011 and 2012.
I mean, what a resumé.
Abortion does not cause breast cancer, but Yoest thinks it does. She's said as much to the New York Times, and when the Times pushed back, she said that scientists who say abortion doesn't cause breast cancer are in the pocket of "the abortion lobby," an argument that's too absurd to engage with in any meaningful way.
Because here's the thing: Yoest isn't clueless. She has a personal stake in perpetuating alternative facts about abortion as the former president of Americans United for Life, which really should be called Americans United for Violating the Privacy of Women Everywhere, because that's what the antiabortion movement is really about. If you don't believe me, watch The Handmaid's Tale for a glimpse into the future non-liberals want. ANYWAY.
Yoest's claim that abortion causes breast cancer tells us a lot about her, because it's a popular claim used by the radical right to undermine abortion access by framing it as a complex and damaging medical procedure. (You'll find it all over the dark net of antiabortion blogs, if you're brave.)
In fact, an abortion is about as dangerous as a colonoscopy. But when has science kept antiabortion extremists from bandying about horrid ideas? Never! Yoest has even gone so far as to say she doesn't believe birth control lowers abortion rates, which is hilarious, because it's the only thing that does.
The leaders of both NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood have spoken out against this appointment, and they absolutely should: Yoest, who doesn't need a Senate confirmation to do her job, is primed to do real damage to women's health. This appointment is like hiring a Westboro Baptist Church leader to regulate how homophobic protest signs are allowed to be. It's a poor choice in the string of increasingly poor choices that Trump's presidency has been thus far.
I've written about reproductive rights for years, and this is a shocking normalization of the antiabortion movement, a movement with ties to domestic terrorism, stubborn opposition to evidence-based medicine, and policy designed to punish poor women and women of color. There is not a movement more strongly opposed to health care than the antiabortion movement. This may be Trump's most hypocritical appointment yet.