November 16, 2018 Press Release

What We Didn’t Hear from HHS Chief Azar Today at the Federalist Society…

11.16.18 – HHS Secretary Alex Azar today spoke at the Federalist Society’s annual National Lawyers Convention, where he discussed what role “limited government” principles should play in health care.  Specifically, Azar noted the importance of “empowering consumers, rather than having government decide what is best for the individual” while also lauding the emphasis the United States puts on “patient choice.”

Despite his rhetoric, Azar clearly doesn’t believe the principles of “limited government” apply when it comes to reproductive health care — especially for low-income women — and protections for LGBTQ individuals.  In the last ten days alone, he’s empowered his Refugee Director to write an anti-abortion book, issued rules which could make it harder for women to access birth control and abortion, and consulted a virulently anti-woman group on cutting $100 million in medical research.

“Alex Azar is a hypocrite – plain and simple,” said Mary Alice Carter, Executive Director of Equity Forward. “In one breath he’ll laud the benefits of small government and in the next he’ll brag about his efforts to use governmental power to infringe on the reproductive and civil rights of millions of Americans. His conduct is not only disgusting, it’s reckless, and real people are paying the price.”

Here are a few key examples of how Azar has used the power of his agency to infringe on health care options:

Azar’s HHS is working to make it harder to access birth control and abortion. Less than 24 hours after the midterm election, HHS rolled back birth control coverage — just days before Azar touted the importance of primary care. In May, HHS proposed a rule that would no longer allow recipients of family planning funds to discuss abortion with patients weighing their options, and just recently proposed a new rule that would roll back access to abortion for low-income women. Additionally, Azar’s HHS released woefully late guidance for Title X grant applications, which omitted any requirement for hormonal birth control services.

HHS official Scott Lloyd, who remains under Azar’s tenure, deliberately delayed abortion procedures for young women in his care. Lloyd, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), denied abortion requests from minors in his care and claimed he could determine what type of medical care was in the young women’s best interest. But Lloyd’s refusal to approve requests forced Jane Doe to undergo a more complicated second trimester abortion. Additionally, Lloyd forced the young women seeking abortions to tell their parents, even when they feared parental abuse, and ordered shelters to take unaccompanied minors to crisis pregnancy centers.

Azar’s HHS is undermining protections for transgender individuals and women seeking abortions. HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) created a conscience protection division, making it easier to discriminate against transgender individuals and limit abortion access. OCR Director Roger Severino, who created the division at the behest of his former employer, The Heritage Foundation, has a long history of opposing rights for transgender individuals and same sex couples.