Search form

Group 4 Created with Sketch.
Back to HHS Watch
Matt Bowman

Matt Bowman

Principal Advisor to the Director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights

Matthew Scott ("Matt") Bowman is an attorney with a lengthy track record of representing clients in court fighting abortion and birth control access, including the Obama-era birth control mandate. He has made a career out of fighting to roll back reproductive rights outside of the court room, as well: Bowman worked as a full-time anti-abortion activist for years, during which time he was arrested for protesting gay-friendly and reproductive rights policies.


Bowman worked as HHS Deputy General Counsel from 2017 until May 2019, when the department announced he would begin serving as Principal Advisor to the Director of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). At HHS, Bowman has been credited as a principal author of the Trump administration’s rules to roll back employer-mandated coverage of birth control. Bowman’s portfolio at HHS has included the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), which oversees offices like the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Bowman is on dozens of emails providing legal advice to ORR on cases including that of 17-year-old Jane Doe, an undocumented immigrant in government custody who was denied her right to obtain an abortion by ORR. He has also been involved in coordinating meetings with religious liberty groups, pro-abstinence advocates and staffers overseeing the destruction of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program.


Deputy General Council, HHS, 2017 – 2019

Senior Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom, 2006 – 2017

Adjunct Lecturer, Catholic University of America, 2016

Clerk, Hon. Samuel A. Alito, Jr., 2005 – 2006

Clerk, Hon. Michael A. Chagares, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, 2006

Clerk, Hon. John M. Roll, U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, 2003 – 2005 

Fellow, The Blackstone Fellowship (Alliance Defending Freedom), 2001

“Full-time Pro-Life Volunteer,” The Solidarity Project, 1997 – 2000



Katy Talento:

Bowman and Katy Talento, the White House’s Health Policy Advisor, have worked together to overturn the Obamacare birth control mandate. Talento has over a decade of experience on the Hill where she has leveraged her positions to espouse her anti-abortion, anti-birth control views. She has publicly argued the falsehood that using birth control causes miscarriages and reduces the ability to have a baby.

Flip Benham:

The Rev. Philip (“Flip”) Benham was the director of the militant anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue that coordinated Bowman’s anti-abortion activism from 1997 to 1999, Benham and Bowman worked closely together — both were arrested while protesting Disney in Florida after the company announced its decision to allow employees’ health coverage to extend to their same-sex partners. In February 2018 Benham was charged with threatening an abortion clinic volunteer after he told her she was “dead in her sins.”

Will Goodman:

Goodman is a full-time anti-abortion protestor and currently engages in abortion clinic invasions with “Red Rose Rescue.” He was recently incarcerated for violating probationary requirements that he stay away from abortion clinics. Bowman and Goodman became close through their involvement with Collegians Activated to Liberate Life (CALL), which expects all of its members to take at least one full year dedicated to extremist anti-abortion activism. Goodman was CALL’s outreach director from 1996 to 1997; the two protested abortion clinics, fetal tissue research and LGBTQ rights together. Goodman and Bowman remain in touch.

Arina Grossu:

Bowman worked with Arina Grossu on the rollout of the Office for Civil Rights’ Conscience and Religious Freedom division. Grossu has been an advocate for anti-abortion groups since she was in high school. She worked as director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity, in which she focused on anti-abortion issues.


Bowman Suggested A Hospital's Plan To Allow Certain Types Of Abortions Was Like Telling Staff They "Work In Auschwitz" Now:

Matt Bowman said during an appearance on a radio show, "Even the abortionists themselves admit that they're killing innocent human beings, and this is a problem but this is not even a freestanding private abortion facility. This is the University of Wisconsin taking its resources, its doctors and going into a clinic full of doctors and nurses and people who have just committed their lives to helping people. and saying guess what, you work in Auschwitz now [39:16]. and that's the kind of situation that we've got going on here, and then there are laws in the state of Wisconsin where the people have said we're not going to put our taxpayer money towards this, we're not going to allow public entities support this kind of thing. And then you've got the University of Wisconsin is going in and bullying this plan. There are a lot of elements of this, not to mention the baby body parts experimentation that we've discusses, that are extremely troubling." [Crosstalk Wisconsin, 1/09, 38:49; accessed via]

Bowman Believes That Employers Who Provide Birth Control Coverage Are “Killing Embryos”:

In 2012, Bowman wrote that employers who provide birth control coverage to their employees “kill embryos and bow to the altar of fruitless intercourse.” [Mirror of Justice Blogs, 1/27/12]

Bowman Wrote That Obama’s “Anti-Pregnancy” Items Cause “Promiscuity”:

In February 2012, Bowman wrote, “Initially, the president is wrong on the facts. His panoply of anti-pregnancy items can run in the thousands of dollars and correlate with unhealthy lifestyles especially by enabling promiscuity, while children are one of the greatest capital investments a nation can make.” [Townhall, 2/24/12]

Bowman Downplayed And Belittled Deaths Cause By Illegal Abortions Before Roe v. Wade:

“Before abortions were legal the number of women who died is much smaller than what pro-abortion groups claim," Bowman said. "People advocating for legal abortions used numbers they made up to scare the Supreme Court” [University Wire, “Abortion Demonstrators Clash at U. Wisconsin,” 5/9/00]


Matt Bowman Is An Anti-Birth Control, Anti-Abortion Extremist With An Extensive History On The Fringes Of The Anti-Choice Movement

Bowman Has Spent The Last Decade Litigating Anti-Birth Control Cases And Advancing Right Wing Values

Bowman Spent Years Attacking The Obama-Era Birth Control Mandate As An Attorney For The Conservative Group Alliance Defending Freedom… 

At Alliance Defending Freedom, A Southern Poverty Law Center Designated Hate Group, Bowman “Spent Years Attacking The Requirement That Most Health Insurance Plans Cover Contraception Under The Affordable Care Act.” “From his post at a Christian legal advocacy group, Matthew Bowman spent years attacking the requirement that most health insurance plans cover contraception under the Affordable Care Act.” [New York Times, 7/11/17

Over The Last Five Years, Bowman “Was Involved In Numerous Court Cases In Which Religious Organizations And Employers Challenged The Contraceptive Coverage Rule, Which He Calls The ‘Abortion Pill Mandate.’” “The Affordable Care Act says insurers must cover certain preventive services at no cost. But the Trump administration says the law does not explicitly require coverage of contraceptives—an argument Mr. Bowman made for plaintiffs in court cases. In the last five years, Mr. Bowman was involved in numerous court cases in which religious organizations and employers challenged the contraceptive coverage rule, which he calls an “abortion pill mandate.”” [New York Times, 7/11/17

  • Bowman Has Represented March For Life, Tyndale House, And James Dobson In Lawsuits Against The Birth Control Mandate. “In similar cases, he also represented March for Life, a nonprofit that holds an annual march opposing abortion; Tyndale House, a religious publishing company; and James C. Dobson, the evangelical Christian whose radio broadcasts reach millions of Americans. “Pro-life organizations must be free to operate according to the beliefs they espouse,” Mr. Bowman said when he filed suit for March for Life in 2014. “If the government can punish organizations simply because they want to abide by their beliefs, there is no limit to what other freedoms it can take away.” [New York Times, 7/11/17

Bowman Has Claimed That Common, Popular Birth Control Methods Like The IUD And Emergency Birth Control Cause Abortions. “When the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently put forth their new health coverage mandates, people of faith – and particularly people of faith who operate and work for faith-based organizations – saw the pro-abortion administration’s handwriting on the wall. For included in the mandate is a requirement that all insurance plans, and the people who pay for them, provide free coverage for drugs and devices that can destroy early embryos.  These include items such as intrauterine devices (IUDs), ‘emergency contraception,’ and several other drugs, as well as a newly approved method called ‘ellaOne,’ which can induce early abortions after an embryo implants in the womb. The mandate also compels coverage of sterilization methods, contraception, and counseling in favor of all these things.” [Matt Bowman, Town Hall, 8/17/11]

…And Now He Is Attacking Birth Control From Within The Health And Human Services Department

Bowman Was A Principal Author Of Federal Rules Rolling Back Requirements For Employers To Include Birth Control Coverage In Their Health Insurance Plans.  “A principal author of the rules, Matthew Bowman, a top lawyer at the Department of Health and Human Services, represented March for Life in 2014 when he was a lawyer at the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal advocacy group.” [New York Times, 7/10/17]

Bowman Also Persistently Defended Anti-Abortion Crisis Pregnancy Centers From Informing Women Of Their Options

Bowman Praised Ruling In Favor Of Crisis Pregnancy Centers That Were Represented By Alliance Defending Freedom In A Lawsuit Against An Illinois State Law That Would Require Doctors, Nurses And Pregnancy Centers To Provide Information Or Referrals To Patients Who Ask About Abortion. “A judge in Winnebago County has granted a motion by Rockford Pregnancy Care Center and other northern Illinois anti-abortion medical care providers to temporarily exempt them from providing information about abortion or referrals to patients who ask about abortion. The Pregnancy Care Center of Rockford, Anthony Caruso, A Bella Baby OBGYN in Downers Grove, Best Care for Women in Downers Grove and Aid for Women filed suit in August against Gov. Bruce Rauner regarding an amendment to the Illinois Healthcare Right of Conscience Act. Bryan A. Schneider, secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, also was named as a defendant. The amendment, Senate Bill 1564, takes effect on Jan. 1. It requires health care providers who specifically cite a conscience-based objection to abortion to have protocols in place for giving patients information about, or referrals to, other health care providers who will discuss or perform such medical services. [Rockford Register Star, 12/21/16]

Bowman Represented Multiple Crisis Pregnancy Centers In A Lawsuit Against An Illinois State Law That Would Require Doctors, Nurses And Pregnancy Centers To Provide Information Or Referrals To Patients Who Ask About Abortion. “Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing multiple pregnancy care centers, a pregnancy care center network, and a doctor and her medical practice filed suit Thursday in federal court against Gov. Bruce Rauner after he recently signed a bill into law that forces them to promote abortion regardless of their ethical or moral views. The lawsuit also names Bryan Schneider, secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation…. ‘No state should attempt to rob women of the freedom to choose a pro-life doctor, but that is the choice that Illinois is eliminating by mandating that pro-life physicians and entities make or arrange abortion referrals. To make matters worse, the state did this by amending a law designed specifically to protect freedom of conscience,’ said ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman. ‘As our lawsuit explains, the law is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution and both federal and state law, which protect citizens from being forced by the government to live and act in a way contrary to their faith and conscience.’” [Alliance Defending Freedom, 9/30/16]

Bowman Represented Crisis Pregnancy Centers In California In A Suit Against A California Law That Required CPCs To Inform Women About Abortion Options; A Federal Appeals Court Upheld The Law And Ruled Against The Pregnancy Centers. “A federal appeals court Friday unanimously upheld the constitutionality of a new California law that requires religiously affiliated pregnancy clinics to inform women about abortion options. The law, which took effect in January, says licensed clinics must disseminate information to women about government programs that provide free or low-cost services for family planning, abortions and prenatal care. About 200 crisis pregnancy centers in California are affiliated with religions that oppose abortion. Three nonprofit groups that run these clinics sued to block the law, contending that it violated their rights to free speech and freedom of religion. A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, saying the law did not discriminate against or infringe upon anyone’s 1st Amendment rights…Matthew Bowman, an attorney who represented the clinics in the case, said the ruling conflicted with decisions by courts elsewhere and might be appealed. The new law requires clinics and nonmedical counseling centers to provide the notices in 12 or 13 languages in some counties and to include them in advertisements, said Bowman, senior counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, which opposes abortion and advocates for religious liberties. ‘No one should have to choose between offering women free help or having to violate our beliefs and recommend the destruction of a human life—and then provide directions on how to get it done for free,’ Bowman said.” [LA Times, 10/14/16

  • In 2016, Bowman Argued In Front Of The 9th Circuit Court Of Appeals On Behalf Of NIFLA. June 2016, Bowman argued in front of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of NIFLA in its challenge to California’s Reproductive FACT law. At the time, Bowman said that “Requiring pro-life pregnancy health centers to refer women for free abortions is a blatant violation of their free speech rights.“ [NIFLA v. Harris, 6/14/16; SoCal Patch, 5/23/16]

At HHS, Bowman Has Been Involved In Attempts To Limit Young Migrant Women’s Access To Reproductive Health Care

Bowman Has Been Deeply Involved In HHS’ Decision To Keep Young Unaccompanied Women In Detention From Accessing Reproductive Health Care

Bowman’s Portfolio At HHS Includes Overseeing Offices Like The Office Of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Where He Has Provided Legal Advice…


[EF FOIA Response, Page 548, accessed 7/23/18]

Between October 8 And October 11, Bowman Received Five Emails Regarding Jane Doe, Including Emails Detailing Her “State Court Hearing” In Texas And Her Obstetric Care. [EF FOIA Response, Pages 450-461, accessed 7/23/18]

…Including In The Jane Doe Case, When ORR Tried To Stop A Teen From Having An Abortion

Jane Doe Requested An Abortion While In ORR Custody In September 2017, And Received A Judicial Bypass From A Texas State Court, But ORR Officials Kept Her From Attending Her Abortion Appointment... “The Justice Department’s radical new theory arose out of a disturbing case in Texas that revolves around a 17-year-old referred to as Jane Doe in court filings. Doe arrived in the United States several months ago, unaccompanied by her parents and lacking documentation. She was placed in a federally funded Texas shelter, at which point she learned she was pregnant. Doe requested an abortion, but under state law, minors cannot receive the procedure without either parental consent or judicial approval. So Doe obtained what’s known as a judicial bypass and asked permission to attend a state-mandated counseling session before undergoing the procedure.  Her shelter refused to allow her to attend that counseling session, citing federal regulations promulgated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a wing of the Department of Health and Human Services. In March, ORR announced that federally funded shelters could not take ‘any action that facilitates’ abortion for unaccompanied minors, including ‘scheduling appointments, transportation, or other arrangement,’ without ‘direction and approval’ from Scott Lloyd, the agency’s director.” [Slate, 10/19/17]

…An Action That Set Off A Flurry Of Legal Actions Between Her Attorneys, The ACLU And HHS, Allowing Her To Finally Obtain An Abortion Nearly A Month After Her First Appointment… “A pregnant undocumented teenager in federal custody whose attempt to have an abortion set off a monthlong legal battle with the Trump administration terminated her pregnancy on Wednesday morning. She underwent the procedure a day after a court ruling forced federal officials to allow it.” [New York Times, 10/25/17]

…And In The Court’s Final Decision Allowing Jane To Have Her Abortion, A D.C. Circuit Wrote That Its Decision “Rights A Grave Constitutional Wrong By The Government.” “The timeline was at issue because the teenager is more than 15 weeks pregnant and Texas law bans most abortions after 20 weeks.  The 6-3 ruling sent the case back to a lower court judge who within hours of the decision had ordered the government to ‘promptly and without delay’ transport the teen to a Texas abortion provider.  ‘Today’s decision rights a grave constitutional wrong by the government,’ D.C. Circuit Judge Patricia A. Millett wrote.  In the dissent were the court’s three active judges nominated to the bench by Republican presidents.” [Washington Post, 10/24/17]

At HHS, Bowman Was Involved In The Creation Of The Office For Civil Rights’ Conscience And Religious Freedom Division

According To Emails Obtained Through Public Records Requests, Bowman Was Instrumental In Reviewing Information For The Launch Of OCR’s Discriminatory Division Of Conscience And Religious Freedom.

[EF FOIA Response, Office for Civil Rights Contractors Emails, Obtained 1/23/19, pages 1118-1119]

[EF FOIA Response, Office for Civil Rights Contractors Emails, Obtained 1/23/19, page 1101]

[EF FOIA Response, Office for Civil Rights Contractors Emails, Obtained 1/23/19, page 963]

Prior To Working At HHS, Bowman Was A Full-Time, Sometimes Paid, Anti-Abortion Protestor

Bowman Spent The Near Decade Before Law School As A Professional Anti-Abortion Protestor, Harassing And Intimidating Women And Hospital Workers

Bowman Has Had Over A Dozen Run-Ins With Law Enforcement For Activities Including Harassing, Threatening And Intimidating Women And Hospital Workers…

Bowman Made A Nurses At A Clinic In Michigan Feel “Uncomfortable and Intimidated” And Threatened By His Mannerisms. In June 2002, a nurse at the Packard Women’s Clinic told the Ann Arbor police department that Bowman “follows her at a close distance” while she would walk into the clinic and “calls her ‘a murderer’ and that she ‘is going to hell.’” The nurse also added that “Bowman is the only protester that makes her feel uncomfortable and intimidated.” The same nurse also said that there are “five women that are employed there and that they feel threatened by Bowman and his mannerisms,” and that there are “women protesters that she and the other employees have spoken with in the past, but they do not speak with Bowman because he scares them.” [Ann Arbor Police Department, 6/28/02]

Bowman Also Reportedly Followed Women From Their Vehicles To The Front Door Of A Clinic. In a separate police report, a nurse stated that Bowman would “follow a woman from their vehicle in the parking lot to the front door of the clinic” and claimed that some of the clients would tell him to leave them alone and he would continue to talk to them while walking next to them and harasses them about their abortion.” [Ann Arbor Police Department, 6/21/02]

Bowman Made Women Afraid To Leave Their Car And Go Inside The Clinic. The same nurse stated that “at times when she arrives to work, she is afraid to leave her car and go inside the clinic” because Bowman is “standing outside of the front door. She further stated that she was “afraid of this person because of his bizarre actions. She related that she will call a manager to help escort her into her work.” [Ann Arbor Police Department, 6/21/02]

Bowman Was Described By The Madison Police Department As An “Avid Anti-Abortion Protestor” Who Has Been “Cited” By The Police In The Past For “Various Violations.” The Madison Police department described Bowman as an “avid anti-abortion protestor” who had “numerous confrontations with personnel and security of the [Meriter Capitol Facility], and has been cited by Madison Police Dept. personnel in the past, for various violations, including trespass, and disorderly conduct.” [Madison Police Department, 03/10/00]

Bowman Hassled An “Emotionally Vulnerable” Woman About Abortion As She Was Leaving A Hospital. According to a May 2000 Madison police report, Bowman had “verbally harassed” a client of the Meriter Capitol Hospital on the subject of “abortion vs adoption, and ignored her repeated requests to be left alone.” The client stated that she was “emotionally vulnerable” at the time of the incident. [Madison Police Department, 05/16/00]

Bowman Protested A Hospital Security Guard With Signs Claiming That He Was A “Nazi Death Camp Guard.” In November 1998, Bowman and fellow protestor Kneale Ewing were reported to the Madison, Wisconsin police for personally protesting a Meriter Hospital security guard with signs stating that the security guard “supports abortion at Meriter,” and a sign claiming he was a “Nazi Death Camp Guard.” [Madison Police Department, 11/27/98]

…And Picketed The Private Homes Of Doctors And Hospital Security Guards

Bowman Led A Protest Outside The Home Of University of Wisconsin’s Department Of Obstetrics And Gynecology Chair, Dr. Douglas Laube. In March 2001, Bowman led a group of five anti-abortion protesters to a neighborhood to protest outside the residence of the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology chair, Dr. Douglas Laube, carrying signs decrying Dr. Laube’s work as well as photos of aborted fetuses. [University of Wisconsin, accessed 6/1/18; Madison Police Department, 03/08/01]

Bowman Harassed A Hospital Security Guard At His Home. In March 2000, a security guard at a hospital facility where Bowman often protested, told the Madison police that Bowman’s group had been bothering him at his home and reported complaints of “harassment, trespass, and the belief that they had been rifling his mail.” [Madison Police Department, 03/10/00]

…And After Becoming An Attorney, Bowman Continued His Crusade By Arguing Against The Constitutionality Of Buffer Zones Around Abortion Clinics

Bowman Challenged A Pittsburgh Ordinance In Court That Established A 15 Foot Buffer Zone Around Abortion Clinics. “A federal appeals court on Wednesday reinstated a lawsuit brought by a religious advocacy group challenging a Pittsburgh ordinance that establishes a 15-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics. U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon last year ruled against Verona abortion protester Nikki Bruni and four other women represented by Alliance Defending Freedom who said the buffer zone infringed on their First Amendment rights because it kept them from conducting “sidewalk counseling” to women entering the Planned  Parenthood facility Downtown to have abortions. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Judge Bissoon and said the case will return to her on the First Amendment claim…Matt Bowman, an Alliance Defending Freedom lawyer who argued the case before the 3rd Circuit last year, hailed the ruling as a victory. “The government cannot muzzle speech just because pro-abortion politicians and special interests demand it,” he said in a statement. “Pittsburgh’s sidewalk counselors are now entitled to their day in court, and the city cannot justify squelching their peaceful offers of help to women.” [Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 6/1/16

Bowman Is Out Of Touch With Mainstream Beliefs, Including His Opposition To LGBTQ Rights And Promotion Of Sexual Abstinence

Bowman Has Been Arrested For His Forceful Defense Of Anti-LGBTQ Beliefs And Sexual Abstinence

Bowman Was Also Arrested Twice For Aggressively Protesting LGBTQ Rights And Promoting Sexual Abstinence… 

Bowman Was Arrested For Disorderly Conduct While Handing Out Sexual Abstinence Flyers Outside Of The School. According to a March 2000 Madison police report, Bowman was arrested for disorderly conduct regarding his behavior towards a high school principal while handing out sexual abstinence flyers outside of the school. The principal claimed that Bowman was “loud and confrontational” after he asked him what was in the flyers, due to his proximity to the school. [Madison Police Department, 03/29/00]

Bowman Was Arrested Alongside Flip Benham At A Protest Of Disney’s “Gay-Friendly” Policies. Bowman was arrested at a protest of Disney’s gay-friendly policies in Kissimmee, Florida on December 29, 1997. The protest was organized by Operation Rescue, whose leader — Rev. Flip Benham — was arrested alongside Bowman. Operation Rescue called the protest “a massive assault on the gates of hell” in response to Disney’s providing health benefits to same-sex partners, allowing “Gay Days” at its theme parks, and permitting Ellen DeGeneres to come out as a homosexual on her show. Bowman was charged with one count of Obstruction of Public Streets and one count of Throwing Advertising Material in a Motor Vehicle.  [Orlando Sentinel, 12/30/97]

…And Bowman Continued His Anti-LGBTQ Rhetoric Long After His First Arrest

Bowman Has Compared The Pride Flag To The Confederate Flag. “”Many people believe the Confederate flag does not just stand for Southern culture—that it is inextricably intertwined with slavery. If so, what does it mean to fly the rainbow equality flag, when all the leaders who hand it out fervently believe “equality” means they get to define which humans are “equal” and which can be sacrificed and harvested?” [Matt Bowman, Town Hall, 8/1/15]