Reproductive rights in America have yet another challenge to face. A Monday report by Politico revealed that Teresa Manning is the Department of Health and Human Services' newest deputy assistant secretary for population affairs — a strange choice, considering her history as an anti-abortion advocate.
Manning has previously worked with the National Right to Life Committee, as well as the Family Research Council, both virulently anti-abortion organizations. In 2003, she edited the book Back to the Drawing Board: The Future of the Pro-Life Movement, a collection of essays from leading anti-abortion advocates contemplating the state of their movement after Roe v. Wade, and which direction it should take. While promoting the book, Manning shared her own views, saying "the status quo is unacceptable" and quoting John Paul II's insistence that "no effort should be spared to eliminate legalized crime or at least to limit the damage caused by these laws."
In addition to opposing abortion, Manning has been unequivocal in her belief that contraceptives don't work. Over the years, she has peddled an array of myths regarding birth control and women's health in general. Given her beliefs on women's reproductive rights, it's disturbing that Manning's new job will put her in charge of administering the $286 million federal budget granted to Title X, the family planning program which helps low-income Americans get access to birth control, family planning counseling, and other services.
More baffling is Manning's stance on birth control. One would be forgiven for assuming that a person who opposes abortion would be in favor of contraceptives to prevent the unintended pregnancies that most often lead to abortion. However, not only is Manning convinced that birth control is ineffective, she also believes that it increases the rate at which women get abortions.
"Of course, contraception doesn’t work," she told NPR in a 2003 interview. "Its efficacy is very low especially when you consider over years, which you know a lot of contraception health advocates want, to start women in their adolescent years when they’re extremely fertile, incidentally. And continue for 10, 20, 30 years, over that span of time, the prospect that contraception would always prevent the conception of a child is preposterous." In fact, contraceptives are nearly always found to be over 90 percent effective by most studies, especially when more than one form is combined.
In the same NPR interview, she criticized pro-choice activists for "[promoting] contraception and birth control as a way to reduce the incidence of abortion." She added, incorrectly, "There really is no evidence to support that. In fact, the incidence of contraception use and the incidence of abortion go up hand in hand." Yet a recent study by the Guttmacher Institute found that the high decline in abortions in the United States was a result of less unintended pregnancies. It also found no evidence for the anti-choice claim that the rising number of anti-abortion laws were behind the decrease.
With Title X already under attack by the Trump administration, the appointment of someone like Manning to control those funds was the last thing women in America needed.