November 15, 2018 Press Release

HHS Secretary Azar to Speak About Accountability & Transparency Despite His Department Lacking Both

11.15.18 – Tomorrow, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar will speak at the conservative, anti-abortion Federalist Society’s 2018 National Lawyers Convention. This year’s theme is Good Government Through Agency Accountability and Regulatory Transparency,” but HHS has lacked those values with Azar at the helm.

While Azar is speaking at conference touting accountability and transparency, here are some highlights where HHS failed to meet the ethical – or legal – standards that the public deserves from its government:

  • Azar’s HHS has repeatedly lied about its handling of the family separation crisis. Azar lied about being able to immediately locate children in HHS custody, and lied to the public about having a “central database” within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Because of these lies, families were separated for far longer than necessary, and hundreds of children still remain in custody.

  • Azar allowed incompetent Office of Refugee Resettlement Director Scott Lloyd to remain in a position of power. Lloyd made decisions that complicated reunifications, resulting in the failure to include at least 14 migrant children in its count of minors who were separated from their family, leaving them to languish in custody. Since Azar effectively removed Lloyd from “day to day operations” during the height of the reunification process, only after his incompetence was reported by the press, Lloyd has been allowed to remain in his position while he works on his anti-abortion book. Today more than two hundred children still remain in HHS’ custody. Where’s the accountability?

  • Azar coordinated with anti-science groups while weighing plans to discontinue lifesaving fetal tissue research projects.When deciding to potentially discontinue more than $100 million in research projects, Azar defied recommendations of scientists and instead sought input from the political anti-abortion group, Susan B. Anthony List. Larry Goldstein, Director of UC San Diego’s Stem Cell Program said that this cancellation of using fetal tissue will “slow some projects down that are vital for sick Americans.” Those projects could help find a cure to Alzheimer and numerous other diseases. Why is Azar making these decisions behind closed doors with no transparency?

  • Azar has refused to promote transparency by failing to comply with open records laws. Trump administration officials, including Scott Lloyd, blocked the abortion requests of at least seven undocumented teens last year. When Equity Forward sought emails from HHS regarding this issue, Azar’s HHS said it needs at least 28 years to respond.

“It’s frustrating that Secretary Azar will speak about accountability and transparency at a conservative, anti-abortion event tomorrow since he’s been leading HHS without weighing either of those values,” said Mary Alice Carter, Executive Director of Equity Forward. “Time and time again, Azar has demonstrated a lack of leadership, and it’s time for Congress to investigate the incompetence and ideology coursing through HHS and its programs.”