October 8, 2019 | From Charisma News
In a sweeping social policy shift, the Trump administration is seeking to remake health rules at home and abroad for women, gay and transgender people, restricting access to abortion, curtailing support for contraception and narrowing the scope of civil rights in healthcare.
The turnaround has its foundations in the quiet, behind-the-scenes influence of Vice President Mike Pence, who has been driven throughout his political career by his evangelical Christian beliefs to restrict abortion and prioritize the rights of religious conservatives.
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Pence has been in the spotlight for leading the administration’s failed effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. But other changes, affecting health policy domestically and abroad, are moving ahead with far less attention.
Under the direction of two secretaries recommended by Pence, the Department of Health and Human Services has moved to slash funds from teen pregnancy-prevention programs, curb abortion both in the United States and abroad and strip civil protections for transgender patients.
The administration has emphasized abstinence programs, led by appointees who believe contraception harms women, and pushed to cut government funds for Planned Parenthood—a longtime cause for Pence while he was in Congress. Planned Parenthood, a national network of healthcare providers, offers infertility services, contraception and abortions.
Public health civil rights offices, marshaled to strengthen LGBT rights under Obama, have been retooled into a new Office of Conscience and Religious Freedom. This month, the office unveiled a final “conscience rule” to strengthen protections for healthcare workers who object to performing abortions and sterilizations or treating gay and transgender patients.
And the HHS, along with the State Department—headed by Pence ally Mike Pompeo, also an evangelical Christian—has expanded the campaign beyond U.S. borders. Trump-appointed officials are seeking to delete language in international documents at the United Nations they contend promotes access to abortion and expands healthcare rights to transgender individuals.
“There has never been anything like it,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, said of her working relationship with Pence. “The policy I believe can’t get done without Vice President Pence and his team.”
A cadre of religious conservatives appointed in the early days of the administration is driving the changes, largely from within HHS, which administers most government health programs, along with the State Department and White House. Many appointees come from religious and conservative groups, some of whom regularly protested outside abortion clinics during the Obama years.
In the Trump-Pence West Wing, “everywhere I turn are colleagues, mentors and friends who have fought in the pro-life trenches for decades,” Katy Talento, who handled health policy in the White House, told an anti-abortion group in Texas. She last week announced plans to leave the administration. “I still can’t believe they let us all in the complex every day.”
Emboldened by the movement and by the new conservative majority on the Supreme Court, states including Alabama and Missouri have passed laws in recent weeks that nearly outlaw abortion, spurring nationwide protests.
(Excerpt from Charisma News. Article by Yasmeen Abutaleb and Joseph Tanfani.)
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