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Trump reportedly may tap a former pharmaceutical company executive for the post who worked at HHS under George W. Bush and has given extensively to Republican candidates for office.

Alex Azar, whose resume includes stints as a pharmaceutical executive, working in George W. Bush’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and clerking for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, is reportedly being considered by the Trump administration to lead HHS.

Trump “is leaning towards” nominating Azar to replace Tom Price after the HHS secretary resigned last month, according to a Tuesday report from Politico.

Azar worked from 2001 to 2007 at HHS under the Bush administration, first as general counsel and later as its deputy secretary. During his tenure at the agency, Azar worked on stem-cell research policy, among other areas. After departing HHS, Azar moved to pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company from 2007 until January 2017, the last five years of which he spent as president of its U.S. affiliate, Lilly USA, LLC.

Lilly and Company is listed as a corporate sponsor of Population Services International (PSI), whose work includes training abortion providers and providing supplies for medical abortions. The pharmaceutical company worked with PSI on its diabetes prevention and management program in India. Lilly and Company’s CEO also signed onto a 2015 letter opposing then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s signature religious imposition law, which gave businesses the green light to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

The company also gave money to the Republican Governors Association.

Data accessed through the National Institute on Money in State Politics reveals that Azar has donated to Vice President Mike Pence’s campaigns, including a $2,950 donation to his 2012 gubernatorial campaign, $1,000 to his gubernatorial re-election efforts in 2016 prior to becoming the nominee for vice president, and another $500 to Pence’s successful 2010 bid for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Pence is hardly the only Republican to have received campaign funds from Azar. In July 2016, he gave $2,700 to the Trump Victory fund, a joint fundraising venture between the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, campaign finance records show. Other members of the party who have received donations from Azar include former U.S. senator and current Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Sens. Todd Young (IN), Mitch McConnell (KY), and Orrin Hatch (UT), along with failed presidential candidate Jeb Bush.

Azar didn’t just support Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign financially, he served on his campaign’s Indiana steering committee, according to a report from the Indy Star. Bush was a vocal opponent of abortion rights and repeatedly pushed his anti-choice record as Florida governor. He told the Associated Press in January 2016 that he would like to see Roe. v. Wade overturned and vowed to expand funding for anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers if elected—something he did in his home state.

Health Care in Azar’s Own Words

In a video published on YouTube by the Zetema Project, a group of health-care stakeholders that meet to discuss the industry, Alzar spoke positively of block granting Medicaid. “I think there’s a lot to commend a block grant approach because the states are the laboratory for experimentation,” he says. “Block granting really says … ‘Here’s an amount of money, you figure out the best way to provide insurance to those who are unable to afford it in your state.’ It makes them better stewards of the money. It becomes their money again to make the choices.”

But converting Medicaid to block grants “would do irreparable damage to the safety net at a time when demand for publicly funded family planning continues to grow,” Audrey Sandusky, the director of advocacy and communications at the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, toldRewire in March. The increased flexibility given to states through block grants could also open the door for some to restrict access to certain kinds of reproductive health care and restrict access to some providers. It could also hamper states’ ability to deal with public health crises and economic downturns by capping how much the government allots to states annually.

Though Medicaid expansion has drastically improved access to health care for people with low incomes, in another video for the Zetema Project, Azar said he didn’t believe that the expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) had been successful though he did not say why. Instead, he said, expansion efforts should have instead “chosen vehicles that actually harnessed the private sector.”

An analysis from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation released last month overviewing findings from 153 studies on Medicaid expansion found that, “the large body of research on the effects of Medicaid expansion under the ACA suggests that expansion has had largely positive impacts on coverage; access to care, utilization, and affordability; and economic outcomes, including impacts on state budgets, uncompensated care costs for hospitals and clinics, and employment and the labor market.”

Azar, since departing from Lilly, has appeared on Fox Business Network to discuss health care. When Congressional Republicans continued their efforts to repeal the ACA despite warnings from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that the House version of the bill could leave as many as 23 million more people uninsured, Azar defended the legislation during a July appearance on Fox Business Network and claimed it would leave the country “better than where we are under Obamacare now.”

During the interview, he chided Republicans for not speaking enough about what he called the “benefits” of the legislation and joined the conservative media network in its crusade to cast doubt on the nonpartisan CBO. Though Fox News host Stuart Varney and Azar alluded to the GOP talking point that CBO estimates for the ACA were off, as media watchdog Media Matters for America noted in March, “According to an independent analysis of the CBO’s Affordable Care Act estimates from the Commonwealth Fund, the office’s health care policy analysis regarding the ACA actually ‘proved to be reasonably accurate’ and was thrown off by Supreme Court decisions and GOP political obstruction that it had no way to forecast.”

Azar appeared in July on Neil Cavuto’s Fox show, when he discussed what then-HHS Secretary Price could legally do to address problems with the ACA. He said that if he were head of HHS, he would “grant waivers to states to create much more flexibility in his exchanges.”

“I would do a top to bottom comprehensive rewrite of the regulations of Obamacare, imposing as much free market, localized flexibility as humanly possible,” said Azar.

Azar also appeared on the network’s Mornings with Maria program in June. He confirmed that he had been at the White House that week and had discussed ACA repeal efforts with Pence, according to transcript of the segment.


Better access to birth control could be contributing to a decline in the abortion rate.

Abortion is a common, safe, and legal procedure that’s a key part of reproductive health. And while there’s no shame in having one, it turns out that women across the country are having fewer abortions, and it’s quite likely for a good reason.

While the procedure is still common — one in four women will get an abortion by age 45 — the abortion rate in the United States has “fallen dramatically,” according to new research detailed by The Washington Post, dropping a whopping 25% from 2008 to 2014. Part of the reason could very well be better access to birth control.

Co-authors of the research, Rachel K. Jones and Jenna Jerman, suggested in the report that reproductive health improvement has been the main reason for the abortion decline. Notably, the biggest decline (46%) was among teens ages 15 to 19, and Jones and Jerman highlighted evidence that a growing acceptance of longer-acting contraceptives like IUDs is responsible. Debra Hauser, president of Advocates for Youth, told Teen Vogue via an emailed statement that the shift indicates abortion is “still an incredibly common practice” and that “numbers are down in part because of greater access to effective contraception,” but that there are also “far too many unnecessary obstacles to obtain this critical care” of abortion.

In January, the Guttmacher Institute found that the national abortion rate was at an all-time low since Roe v. Wade declared the procedure legal, in 1973. While the Guttmacher Institute noted access to birth control (thanks to affordable birth control measures under the Obama administration) and other family planning efforts could contribute to that, it also added that abortion restrictions could be behind the decline. In 2016, 14 states passed measures to make abortions harder to get, and those affronts to abortion access have continued. Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed a bill banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy (though the measure is likely to fail when it hits the Senate floor).

With recent political moves under the Trump administration, it’s difficult to tell how the abortion rate will be affected by recent legislation. “Just last week the House passed legislation that restricted abortion access even further, continuing a trend of more abortion restrictions passed in the last five years than in the entire decade prior.” The Trump administration also rescinded an Obama-era rule making birth control more accessible, instead allowing organizations or employers to opt out of covering birth control on insurance plans.

Hauser highlighted that it’s “now more important than ever to center the stories of people who have had abortions in the conversation about reproductive health access,” adding that the decision on whether or not to have children is a “fundamental right.”

“Just as fundamental is access to a full spectrum of reproductive health care services, including birth control, care during and after pregnancy, and abortion,” she said. “And we will not be shamed into silence. Not now; not ever again.”



  • The court sets an October 31 deadline for the government to find her a sponsor
  • Only then can the girl, who is a minor, seek an abortion, the court says

(CNN)A federal appeals court Friday ruled that an undocumented teenage immigrant held in detention in Texas may obtain an abortion, but it delayed the process, giving the Trump administration 11 days to find a sponsor to take custody of the girl beforehand.

The ruling set a deadline of October 31 for the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to get a sponsor for the girl, who is a minor.
The 17-year-old, identified in court documents only as “Jane Doe,” came to the United States without her parents and is staying in a shelter for unaccompanied immigrant minors run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, according to court documents.
“If a sponsor is secured and J.D. is released from HHS custody to the sponsor, HHS agrees that J.D. then will be lawfully able, if she chooses, to obtain an abortion on her own pursuant to the relevant state law,” according to the order from the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a statement Friday saying he was “disappointed” with the court’s decision because it gives the federal government time to find a sponsor for the teen “so she can be taken for an abortion.”
“Unlawfully-present aliens with no substantial ties to the U.S. do not have a right to abortion on demand,” Paxton said. “Texas must not become a sanctuary state for abortions.”
Thursday, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals issued an administrative stay of a ruling that would have allowed the teenager to obtain an abortion. That ruling, from a federal judge on Wednesday, ordered the government to allow the girl to get an abortion after the Trump administration denied her access to one.
In a two-page decision, DC District Judge Tanya Chutkan ordered officials at the Department of Health and Human Services to allow the teen to be transported by a guardian or attorney “promptly and without delay” to an abortion provider to obtain state-mandated counseling and then to obtain the abortion.
The order also barred those officials from “interfering or obstructing” the girl’s access, from forcing her to make her decision known to anyone and from “retaliating” against her and the facility where she is in regards to her decision.
But the Court of Appeals issued a stay on the ruling Thursday to “give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the emergency motion” filed by the government. That ruling came Friday.
The ACLU, which is representing the girl, filed a lawsuit late last week against the administration.
“This administration has no shame and no regard for a woman’s health or decisions,” said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Weeks ago, our client decided to end her pregnancy. Her decision has been disregarded and she’s now been dragged into a protracted legal battle over her ability to get the care she needs.”
The HHS division that presumably would be responsible for finding a sponsor — the Administration for Children and Families — issued a statement Friday night saying, “For however much time we are given, the Office of Refugee Resettlement and HHS will protect the well-being of this minor and all children and their babies in our facilities, and we will defend human dignity for all in our care.”

Minister ‘grappling’ with legislation and says Constitution not place to address abortion

Minister Simon Harris said he had heard very difficult and upsetting cases and met people “who have felt this country has been a very lonely place that has left them feeling very isolated” in difficult circumstances. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister Simon Harris said he had heard very difficult and upsetting cases and met people “who have felt this country has been a very lonely place that has left them feeling very isolated” in difficult circumstances. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The Eighth Amendment is not working in this country and should be repealed, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.

Referring to Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, which put the life of a woman on equal footing with the life of the foetus she is carrying, the Minister said it was his personal view that no new restrictions on abortion should be enshrined in the Constitution.

“I don’t believe the Constitution is the best place to address this issue,” he said.

He said when the Eighth Amendment was enshrined in the Constitution it had unintended consequences.

“I don’t think it in any way has worked for women, has worked for infants, and … it has limited our ability to actually make laws to look after women, their health and infants as well,” he said.

The Minister said he was currently “grappling” with the issue of legislation. People of his generation and a generation older never had an opportunity to have a say, he said. He had heard very difficult and upsetting cases and met people “who have felt this country has been a very lonely place that has left them feeling very isolated” in difficult circumstances.

“I have met women and their partners overjoyed to find out they are pregnant, only to be hit with a terrible tragedy . . . when they find out their expected child has fatal foetal abnormality; I want to see this addressed,” he said.


Referring to an appearance before the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment by Dr Peter Boylan, former master of the National Maternity Hospital, Mr Harris said he was “somewhat intrigued as an observer of the committee” why medical experts were being asked about “ethical or moral views”.

“I attach a greater degree of weight to any medical advice given at an Oireachtas committee, particularly when I’m not a clinician and most of my colleagues in the Oireachtas aren’t either,” he said.

He also said he believed if the Irish people made a decision to make a health service available, it should be available in the public health service.

“Hospitals in this country are funded to operate under the law of the land and to deliver our public health services,” he said.

Mr Harris welcomed the “degree of clarity” provided by the committee on Wednesday when it agreed the Eighth Amendment should not be retained in full. He also said the Oireachtas and the committee would very shortly find “it’s gone as far as it can with this matter and it will ultimately be a matter for the Irish people”.


The Minister was speaking in Dublin on Thursday at the launch of the implementation plan for the National Maternity Strategy.

The strategy, launched in 2016, centres on providing nationally consistent, high quality and women-centred maternity care. It plans to replace the current model of obstetrician-led services with midwife-led care for women with low-risk pregnancies, and obstetrician care for women with medium and high-risk pregnancies.

Services will be organised in maternity networks, in the same way that centres of excellence and networks were established under the cancer strategy. The changes will be overseen by the National Women and Infants Health Programme Office, which began its work in March this year.

The implementation plan sets out a 10-year time line for the strategy, and includes 230 actions. Detailed costing to implement the first year of the plan was not available on Thursday, and projected staff numbers were also not available. They will be included later in the year when the health service plan is published.

Killian McGrane, programme director, said over the 10-year life cycle of the plan “a very significant number” of additional staff will be required, including 100 additional obstetricians.


“President Trump wants to make birth control about ideology, but let’s be clear: For women and their families in the 21st century, birth control is about being healthy and financially secure.”

Congressional Democrats have introduced legislation to block the Trump administration from unilaterally undermining a signature Affordable Care Act feature—widely guaranteed contraception without a co-pay.

Under the Protecting Access to Birth Control Act, the administration’s bombshell rules providing religious and moral exemptions for any employer “shall have no force or effect, and shall be treated as though such rules had never taken effect,” according to yet-to-be-filed bill text. An estimated 62.4 million cisgender women and an untold number of transgender and gender nonconforming people rely on the popular birth control benefit as of 2017, at a $1.4 billion savings on birth control pills alone in 2013.

Democrats in the GOP-controlled U.S. Congress can’t stop the Trump administration from axing the birth control benefit and pursuing other discriminatory reproductive health-care policies through their regulatory war; that’ll be up to the courts, where lawsuits challenging the administration are underway. But through legislation, Democrats can publicly oppose such policies and foment public opinion against them. In the first days of the Trump administration, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act to repeal Trump’s expanded global gag rule prohibiting U.S. foreign aid to organizations that provide abortion care abroad using their own funds.

Now, the Protecting Access to Birth Control Act puts members of Congress on the record against unraveling one of the law known as Obamacare’s most popular provisions. A new Politico/Morning Consultpoll found that 46 percent of registered voters strongly support and 20 percent somewhat support requiring health insurers to cover contraceptive care. Such findings are consistent over time. In 2015, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that 86 percent of adults across party lines backed policies that ease access to “the full range of birth control methods” for people aged 18 and older; 71 percent backed the same for teens.

The Democratic legislation brings together lead sponsors Reps. Diana DeGette (CO), Louise Slaughter (NY), Judy Chu (CA), and Lois Frankel (FL) in the House of Representatives and Sens. Patty Murray (WA) and Bob Casey (PA) in the Senate. DeGette and Slaughter co-chair the House Pro-Choice Caucus; Murray is a vocal advocate of reproductive rights, while Casey, an anti-abortion Democrat, typically supports contraception.

“President Trump wants to make birth control about ideology, but let’s be clear: For women and their families in the 21st century, birth control is about being healthy and financially secure—and that’s why Democrats are going to keep fighting back against his shameful attacks on women with this bill and any other way we can,” Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said in a statement.



TD Ruth Coppinger. Photo: Colin O'Riordan1
TD Ruth Coppinger. Photo: Colin O’Riordan

“I believe if the people make a decision about a health service, it should be available in the public service,” he added.

Mr Harris also said he did not believe that religious ethos would see some hospitals opting out, pointing out the experience of the operation of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act is that publicly funded facilities operate under the law of the land.

He was speaking after the Oireachtas committee on abortion voted not to retain the Eighth Amendment in full.

However, internal divisions within the committee continued to rage after it emerged Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger had written to other members urging them to take another vote and clarify the recommendations of the committee.

She claimed Wednesday’s vote was “not a vote for repeal or even for a repeal referendum and potentially leaves the way open for little or no change”.

Mater Hospital psychiatrist Dr Patricia Casey has also withdrawn from giving evidence to the committee next week, saying the process has become “deeply imbalanced”.

“There are 25 on the pro-choice side with four on a pro-life or neutral perspective.

“Ireland deserves better than that,” she said.

Mr Harris said his personal view is that the Eighth Amendment should be repealed – but he declined to reveal how far he believes any legislation on abortion should go.

The views of Mr Harris were echoed by Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone yesterday, who also said it should be removed from the Constitution with the issue of abortion dealt with by legislation.

Responding to reporters’ questions, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the committee vote gave him “some assurance” that the cross-party group of TDs would be able to come to conclusions on the matter by the end of December.

He was “confident” that the committee would reach conclusions that the Government could then take forward in the new year.

The December deadline is important to allow enough time to organise a referendum on abortion as planned by May of June next year.

Mr Harris also said he and his officials welcomed the “direction of travel” following the committee’s vote as they have to start the work of preparation for potential legislation, reviewing various scenarios.

“I have been tasked to prepare for a referendum. I am very conscious of that, without wishing to pre-empt the work of the Oireachtas committee,” he added.

“I am in favour of a referendum being held on the issue.”

The Eighth Amendment had led to a lot of unintended consequences for women, the minister added.

He had been told of parents who had been left “lonely” and “isolated” by the current restrictions.

Mr Harris was speaking at the launch of the implementation plan for the National Maternity Strategy.

The wide-ranging strategy, which was launched nearly two years ago, aims to put more measures in place to safeguard safety and also provide women who are pregnant with more choice.

Dr Peter McKenna, a former master of the Rotunda Hospital who is clinical director for the strategy, said it was too early to say how services would respond in the event of a referendum to widen the grounds for abortion.

Currently, the proposals are too “nebulous” to give any firm picture, he added.

Questioned by reporters, he said: “Our role is to implement the law of the land as safely as possible.”



The abortion pill was used in for 43 percent of abortions in Planned Parenthood clinics in 2014, a number that Reuters reports has most likely gone up in the last three years. It can be used to terminate a pregnancy up to 10 weeks. It’s also safe — safer than a lot of over-the-counter drugs, including Tylenol. In the first 18 months after it was approved in the United States, 80,000 women used it to terminate a pregnancy, according to the association of Reproductive Health Professionals. The same report found that of those women, only 139 — or 0.17 percent — “experienced an adverse effect.” Even more striking, in the first eight years, 850,000 women used the abortion pill to terminate a pregnancy and seven women died. However, there was no causal relationship found between their deaths and the abortion pill. In comparison, in the seven years between 1993 and 2000, the FDA received more than 4,000 reports of adverse effects — including 55 deaths — from Claritin.

Phil Walter/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Julia Kaye, a staff attorney with ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, told NPR that many women prefer the abortion pill to a surgical abortion because it “feels more natural to them, like a miscarriage.” Women can take the pill in the comfort of their own home, surrounded by loved ones if they choose. They don’t have to undergo a surgical procedure, which can feel scary and daunting.

“The abortion pill is safe, effective, and legal. So why is the FDA keeping it locked away from women who need it?” Kaye said in a press release about the lawsuit. “The FDA’s unique restrictions on medication abortion are not grounded in science — this is just abortion stigma made law.”

Currently, the abortion pill has to be administered by a doctor, in a medical facility. However, the woman doesn’t even take the pill at the doctor’s office — she takes it at home. Or, you know, not in the presence of a medical provider.Dr. Chelius’ lawsuit says that the rules stating that abortion pill has to be administered by a medical professional who has the pill in stock, is able to perform a surgical abortion in case of complications, and that providers have to be pre-registered with the drug manufacturer are placing an “undue burden” on women who want to access abortion services. The “undue burden” requirement comes from the landmark 2016 cases Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which found that restrictions on abortion clinics in Texas made it nearly impossible for women to access safe and legal abortion in parts of that state.

For Dr. Chelius, the undue burden comes from the fact that there are people in his practice who have objections to abortion and refuse to sign off on the abortion pill. As a result, women who are seeking abortion services have to take a 300 mile round trip to another Hawaiian island. For many women on Kauai, the cost and travel time are prohibitive, making it impossible for them to get an abortion.

“I believe it’s my moral obligation to provide my patients with the care they need — whether that’s maternity care or abortion,” said Dr. Chelius in the press release. “Unfortunately, because of the FDA’s restrictions, my patients are forced either to fly to a different provider on another island — resulting in serious delays — or to carry a pregnancy to term against their will.”

No woman should ever be forced to carry a pregnancy to term against her will. Women are no safer when a medical professional hands them a (scientifically proven to be safe) pill to take at home than they are when a pharmacist hands them that same pill. Here’s to hoping Dr. Chelius’ lawsuit is successful and women in Kauai — and across the United States — can access their right to safe and legal abortion.