5 Picks For Tom Price's Replacement Who Would Take Women's Health Seriously
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned from the Trump administration on Monday over controversy surrounding his use of taxpayer to pay for private and military flights. Although President Trump hasn't announced who he'll nominate to fill the spot yet, there are plenty of potential Price replacements who would take women's health seriously — something Price notably didn't do, either as HHS chief or, earlier, as a congressman from Georgia.
Price is a staunch opponent of abortion rights: As the representative Georgia's Sixth Congressional District, Price regularly received 100 percent ratings from the National Right To Life Committee and a zero percent score from Planned Parenthood, which means he is as anti-abortion as they come. He also voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, against employment discrimination protections for women who use birth control and, on multiple occasions, against the Affordable Care Act. In 2012, when asked about his opposition to the ACA's contraception mandate, Price asserted that there's "not one" woman in the country who can't afford birth control.
"Bring me one woman who has been left behind," a defiant Price said. "Bring me one. There’s not one." In fact, a 2010 survey from Planned Parenthood found that one-third of American women struggle to afford birth control.
Although, Price didn't do all that much as HHS Secretary, he was in the position long enough to cut funding for teen pregnancy program across the country. He spent most of his time in the cabinet advocating vociferously for various Obamacare repeal bills, all of which would have been disastrous for women's health. However, all of those bills failed, and the last one died in the Senate just days before the controversy surrounding Price's plane use came to a head.
Price has been a disaster for women's health, but here are a couple of replacement picks to lead HHS who, if Trump nominated them, would actually take the issue seriously.
North Dakota Rep. Kathy Hawken
When North Dakota legislators proposed one of the most draconian abortion restrictions in the country, Hawken was one of the only Republicans to vote against it. She marched in a "Stand Up For Women" rally later that year, proposed legislation to give childcare to single mothers and, despite describing herself as "personally pro-life," regularly votes for pro-choice legislation on the grounds that "no legislator should" decide what a woman does with her body.
Sen. Susan Collins
Collins isn't perfect on women's health issues. But she's undoubtedly one of the most pro-choice Republicans in Congress, having voted for Planned Parenthood funding, mandatory contraception coverage, and minors' access to abortion. It's also conceivable that Trump could pick her: She's a constant thorn in his side in Congress, but if she left the Senate for HHS, Maine's staunchly pro-Trump governor would get to appoint her replacement.
Rep. Ami Bera
Bera is one of only two Democratic physicians currently serving in Congress. A staunch supporter of reproductive rights, the California representative was the only member of the House to receive Planned Parenthood’s Women’s Health Champion award in 2015. That said, it's very difficult to imagine Trump picking a Democrat to lead HHS.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
If Trump did nominate a Democrat to replace Price, though, Gabbard would be a likely possibility. She's chummier with Trump than almost any other Democrat in Congress (which probably matters a lot in Trump's eyes). More importantly, she has a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood, having regularly supported abortion rights and funding for women's health initiatives throughout her time in Congress.
Sen. Kamala Harris
Although her Senate career has been brief, Harris is rock-solid on women's health issues, and as the former head of the California Attorney General's office, she has experiencing managing a sprawling bureaucracy. Working in the Trump cabinet would probably take Harris out of the running for the 2020 Democratic presidential race — which in theory, gives Trump at least one incentive to pick her for the position.
Although it's hard to see Trump nominating a vocal supporter of women's health issues to succeed Price at HHS, it's not totally impossible. The folks above may not be frontrunners for the job, but there's a logic behind picking all of them — and more importantly, they'd all be better for American women than Price was.