January 12, 2018 Press Release


Group Launches 'HHS Watch' to Hold Administration Accountable for Appointees, Policies

01.12.18 – Today marks the launch of Equity Forward a new, nonpartisan watchdog project committed to holding accountable groups and individuals that are limiting access to reproductive health care. Upon launch, Equity Forward announced HHS Watch, a project to promote transparency and accountability at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an agency that has spent the past year quietly dismantling women’s access to reproductive care. This increased scrutiny on past and planned agency actions will include efforts to increase transparency throughout the remaining confirmation process of HHS Secretary nominee Alex Azar and beyond.

“Equity Forward is taking aim at organizations, entities, and leaders working to limit access to reproductive health care,” said Equity Forward executive director Mary Alice Carter. “Our mission is rooted in the simple principle that all people should have equitable access to quality health care.”

“To that end, we are launching HHS Watch to increase transparency at the nation’s foremost public health agency. Americans deserve to know when their government is hiring people with backgrounds antithetical to the mission of the offices in which they serve. Instead of hiring qualified public health professionals, the administration has put anti-contraception political activists in charge of four million women’s birth control access. What’s worse is that they’ve done it with no public debate, and no meaningful oversight from Congressional Republicans.”

Today Equity Forward announced HHS Watch, a project to undertake a full audit of decision makers at HHS by digging into their positions and backgrounds, and continuous monitoring of their actions.

Equity Forward published backgrounds of five HHS appointees in charge of administering Title X, the nation’s largest family planning program. Title X has allowed more people to decide when and if to get pregnant, and we are now at a historic 30 year low for unintended pregnancy – all while saving an estimated $7 billion a year.

Instead of building on this record of success, the Trump administration has quietly filled key posts overseeing Title X who appear to have been chosen based on ideology rather than applicable government experience. These individuals have deep ties to far-right organizations who are opposed to well-established and evidence-based family planning methods, including contraception and abortion. Additionally, a recently leaked White House memo singles out Title X, claiming it “should be cut in half at least.”

Among those tasked with administering Title X and maintaining relationships with community partners are five anti-contraception individuals. The chain of command for Title X includes an anti-contraception, abstinence-only advocate; a former anti-abortion lobbyist; and multiple individuals vehemently opposed to guaranteed insurance coverage for birth control.

“Whenever and wherever there are barriers to access, Equity Forward sees an opportunity for change,” Carter continued. “By conducting and deploying research, we will bring anti-reproductive rights forces out into the open. Our goal is to reduce the power that these forces have in erecting barriers to reproductive health access.

“There’s a dire need to increase action as we watch individuals, organizations, and our own government ramp up attacks on reproductive health care access, which disproportionately affects people of color, LGBTQ people, and rural, underserved, or low-income communities. Equity Forward will continue to hold HHS and others accountable for any steps taken to roll back access to quality reproductive health care.”

Equity Forward seeks to understand the who, what, where, when, why, and how behind the forces actively working to limit — or eliminate — access to abortion, contraceptives, and reproductive health care. We turn that research into proactive communication campaigns to promote, protect, and defend access to care.