February 25, 2019 Press Release

BREAKING: Equity Forward Sues Trump’s Health Department For Records On Heels of Domestic Gag Rule Attacking Birth Control Providers

Suit seeks to determine influence of anti-abortion lobby in HHS’ recent moves to restrict access to health care

02.25.19 – Equity Forward today filed suit against Secretary Alex Azar’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for public records related to the outsized influence the anti-abortion lobby may have had in sabotaging Title X, the nation’s   reproductive health care program that serves 4 million people annually.

The suit — which was filed by American Oversight in partnership with Equity Forward — comes days after HHS announced the final version of its domestic gag rule, which prohibits health care providers who receive Title X birth control funds from referring patients to safe and legal abortion services.  

“Today, we are suing for access to correspondence between anti-abortion forces and our national health department. Health care decisions should be made by medical experts and guided by science, not by the anti-abortion lobby. A program that has been vital to serving the health and well-being of millions of low-income people in America is in jeopardy because a tiny minority doesn’t believe that abortion should be an option for anyone. This is no way to run health care,” said Mary Alice Carter, Executive Director of Equity Forward.

“Yet Trump and Azar have decided that facts and evidence should take a back seat to political ideology, letting anti-abortion forces run amok at HHS. And the results have been devastating: from gagging health care providers from even mentioning abortion to denying low-income patients the ability to go to a provider they have trusted for years, Trump and his political friends are out of step with not only the medical community, but also with the vast majority of Americans who support this program.”

HHS has a long history of taking its cues from the anti-abortion lobby; from soliciting input on plans to potentially cut nearly $100 million in lifesaving research from anti-abortion interest groups to keeping extreme anti-abortion opponents like Scott Lloyd and Matthew Bowman in office long after they’ve proven they are no longer fit to serve, it is evident that the anti-abortion lobby is pulling the strings at Secretary Azar’s HHS.

“The Department of Health and Human Services works for all Americans, and the public has a right to know to what extent extreme, anti-abortion-rights groups are dictating policy in the Trump administration,” said Austin Evers, Executive Director of American Oversight.

Today’s lawsuit, which marks the seventh time Equity Forward has filed to hold HHS accountable for its failure to comply with open records laws, requests correspondence between HHS officials including Secretary Azar, Steven Valentine (whose brother is the Vice President of Public Policy for the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List), Valerie Huber, Diane Foley and the following organizations:

The suit also seeks correspondence between Matthew Bowman, deputy general counsel at HHS, and Operation Save America (formerly Operation Rescue National), a radical organization that uses terrorism to advance its anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ and anti-Muslim agenda. Bowman frequently worked with Operation Rescue during his long history of terrorizing health care providers, women and LGBTQ individuals across the country.   

About Equity Forward

Equity Forward is a watchdog project that seeks to ensure transparency and accountability among anti-reproductive health groups and individuals. In addition to running HHSWatch.org, an extensive website with a library of research on nearly 50 political appointees at our nation's health department who are hostile to reproductive health care, Equity Forward also runs PutPeopleBeforePolitics.org, which calls on Secretary Azar not to cut nearly $100 million in lifesaving research at the behest of the anti-abortion lobby.