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Brenda Destro

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation

Brenda Destro is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE). She spent many years on the faculty of the anti-abortion, John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. During the Bush administration, Destro served at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as an Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Health in the Office of Public Health and Science.

HOW THEIR ROLE AFFECTS ACCESS TO REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH

The Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) advises the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary (Alex Azar) on policy development in health, disability, human services, data and science. Under Destro, the office has been accused of distorting information to push the Trump administration’s narrative, including adding anti-abortion language to the agency’s strategic plan.

The ASPE additionally conducts research and evaluation studies, including the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. ASPE is a large office responsible for public health services including issues related to the organization and delivery of health care services, women’s preventive services and adolescent, maternal and child health. The Office is also largely responsible for human services policies regarding teen pregnancy prevention, LGBTQ youth, and vulnerable populations.

PREVIOUS EMPLOYMENT OF NOTE

Senior Public Health Advisor, Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. - US Senate, 2015 – 2017

Professional Staff on the Subcommittee on Health, Rep Fred Upton, Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, 2011 – 2015

Senior Advisor to the US Assistant Secretary for Health, HHS, Office of Public Health and Science, George W. Bush administration

Deputy Director, Infant Adoption Awareness Training Program / National Council for Adoption, 2001 – 2003

Adjunct Professor for the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, 1992 – 2000

TIES TO OTHER ANTI-CHOICE EXTREMISTS

Robert Destro:

Destro’s husband Robert is a long-time anti-abortion advocate, previously serving as spokesman for Americans United For Life. “Catholic University law professor Robert Destro, acting spokesman for the group Americans United for Life, which opposes abortion, called predictions of voter backlash ‘wishful thinking’ because Americans ‘are just too ambivalent about the whole thing to know whether to be upset.’” [Chicago Tribune, 4/20/92]

Family Research Council:

Destro spoke at a Family Research Council Event focused on supporting the Defense of Marriage Act and criticizing LGBTQ relationships. [C-Span, 7/2/96]

HIGHLIGHTS

Destro Was The Point Of Contact For A Last Minute George W. Bush Administration Regulation That Let Federally Funded Providers Refuse To Provide Care That They “Morally Object To”:

“The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is issuing a final rule to ensure that Department funds do not support morally coercive or discriminatory practices or policies in violation of federal law, pursuant to the Church Amendments (42 U.S.C. 300a– 7), Public Health Service (PHS) Act § 245 (42 U.S.C. 238n), and the Weldon Amendment (Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008, Public Law 110–161, Div. G, § 508(d), 121 Stat. 1844, 2209)….DATES: This rule is effective January 20, 2009. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information regarding this rule, contact: Brenda Destro.”  [Government Publishing Office, 12/19/08]

Brenda Destro Claimed That Including The “Subject of Homosexuality” In Sex Education Was “Harmful”

[C-Span, 7/2/96]

THE WHOLE STORY

The Office Brenda Destro Heads Has Come Under Fire For “Filtering Facts” To Fit Trump’s Anti-Abortion Ideological Message

ASPE, Which Is Known As HHS’ Policy Research Shop, Has Filtered Facts To Fit Trump’s Anti-Abortion Message. “President Donald Trump’s appointees in the health department have deleted positive references to Obamacare, altered a report that undermined the administration’s positions on refugees and added anti-abortion language to the strategic plan — part of an ideological overhaul of the agency’s research office.” [Politico, 7/28/18]

In July 2018, One Former Senior HHS Official Stated, “The Heartbreaking Part Is That ASPE Is The Source Of The Evidence And The Science For How Decisions Are Made, It’s Just Another Example Of How We’re Moving To A Post-Fact Era.” “Another report suggesting that millions more people would get health coverage if Obamacare were rolled back — a finding at odds with nearly every independent analysis — was widely mocked and produced over the objections of career staff at the office of the assistant secretary for planning and evaluation, known as ASPE, say several sources. ‘The heartbreaking part is that ASPE is the source of the evidence and the science for how decisions are made,’ said a former senior official, who worked under both Republican and Democratic administrations. ‘It’s just another example of how we’re moving to a post-fact era.’” [Politico, 7/28/18]

Destro Was A Key Figure In The Bush Administration’s 11th Hour Efforts To Roll Back Reproductive Rights

Brenda Destro Was The Primary Point Of Contact For An 11th Hour Bush Administration Regulation That Let Federally Funded Providers Refuse To Provide Care That They “Morally Object To.”  “The Bush administration finalized on Dec. 18 a controversial regulation that lets federally funded providers refuse to provide care they morally object to, namely abortion. Key Democratic lawmakers said they would work to negate the ‘midnight regulation’ scheduled to go into effect just days before the Obama administration takes over.” [Inside CMS, 12/25/08]

  • The Rule Was Announced With Less Than A Month Left Of The Bush Administration, And Allowed Providers To Refuse To Provide Birth Control And Refuse To Provide Information, Including A Referral, To Patients Seeking An Abortion. “Wisconsin’s new law that requires hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims may be unenforceable due to an 11th-hour administrative rule released by the Bush administration that allows medical staff to refuse to provide services they find morally objectionable.  ‘It would in essence nullify our compassionate care law,’ confirmed Rea Holmes, executive assistant of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.  While doctors and nurses can, under federal and state law, opt out of providing abortions, the new rule broadens this so-called ‘conscience clause’ to all health workers, who can now also refuse to provide information, including a referral, to patients seeking an abortion. Opponents and proponents of the rule also say it additionally allows providers to refuse to provide birth control and other health services.  The rule, released late last week, has provoked outrage from the American Civil Liberties Union, family planning advocates and health care organizations.” [Modern Healthcare, 12/22/08]
  • The Rule Was Rebuked By More Than 11,000 Health Care Providers, Researchers, Educators And Advocates In The Reproductive Health Field. “The Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP), representing more than 11,000 health care providers, researchers, educators, and advocates in the reproductive health field, announced today its outrage over the Bush Administration’s last minute attack on women’s health care access. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a final rule this week under the guise of interpreting existing federal law that allow providers to refuse to perform abortions or sterilizations. In reality, the final rule will compromise women’s access to health care information and services. “ [Press Release, Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, 12/19/08]

Destro Is Anti-LGBTQ And Believed Learning About LGBTQ Issues Would Be Harmful To Teens

On July 2, 1996, Brenda Destro Spoke At The Family Research Council’s Panel On “Same-Gender Marriage,” Where She Complained That Sex-Ed Classes Were Teaching Children About “Homosexuality” Without Distinguishing It From Close Friendship. DESTRO: “Homosexuality and to a lesser degree now same sex relationships, are actually commonly found in sex education curriculums as a result of this growing debate about homosexuality. But as that is being taught, these pre-teens and teens are entering a phase in their psychosocial development where it’s very characteristics for these young girls to have a very close girl friend or for these boys to have a very close boy-friend, and it’s very normal that again is a stage… but in these curriculums, there is absolutely no distinction made between these two—I’ll say events; homosexuality and this normal stage of development. [C-Span, 7/2/96]

Brenda Destro Claimed That Including The “Subject of Homosexuality” In Sex Education Was “Harmful.” “The subject of homosexuality along with other topics is included in most sex education curriculum, more as a politically correct thing to do and not necessarily balanced with the cognitive, emotional, social and moral needs of the children who participate—and I believe having harmful results. And as homosexuality and same-sex relationships are further sanctioned these topics will be given even greater recognition and higher profile in sex education curriculum and I believe this will result in even more harm.” [C-Span, 7/2/96]