Anti-abor­tion ac­tivist quits as fam­ily plan­ning chief

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - HEALTH | SCIENCE -

WASH­ING­TON — Teresa Man­ning — an an­tiabor­tion ac­tivist in charge of the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices De­part­ment’s fam­ily plan­ning pro­grams — has re­signed, ac­cord­ing to a de­part­ment spokes­woman.

Man­ning, who served as deputy as­sis­tant sec­re­tary for the Of­fice of Pop­u­la­tion Af­fairs, has spent much of her ca­reer fight­ing abor­tion and has pub­licly ques­tioned the ef­fi­cacy of sev­eral pop­u­lar contraception meth­ods.

Her job in­cluded over­see­ing the Ti­tle X pro­gram, which pro­vides fam­i­ly­plan­ning fund­ing for about 4 mil­lion poor Amer­i­cans or those without health in­sur­ance.

HHS spokes­woman Caitlin Oak­ley con­firmed Man­ning’s res­ig­na­tion but did not pro­vide a rea­son for her abrupt de­par­ture.

“HHS would like to thank her for her ser­vice to this Ad­min­is­tra­tion and the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” Oak­ley said.

Man­ning was es­corted from the build­ing by se­cu­rity of­fi­cials Fri­day. Ac­cord­ing to an HHS of­fi­cial, Man­ning had turned in her badge and the es­cort al­lowed her to get back out through se­cu­rity.

Her res­ig­na­tion does not ap­pear to rep­re­sent a ma­jor ide­o­log­i­cal shift in the de­part­ment, since Va­lerie Hu­ber, a prom­i­nent ab­sti­nence ed­u­ca­tion ad­vo­cate, has been named act­ing deputy as­sis­tant sec­re­tary for the Of­fice of Pop­u­la­tion Af­fairs. Hu­ber has served as chief of staff in the Of­fice of the As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary of Health since June.

Man­ning, who was ap­pointed by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump last May, for­merly lob­bied for the Na­tional Right to Life Com­mit­tee and worked as a leg­isla­tive an­a­lyst for the Fam­ily Re­search Coun­cil. She was one of sev­eral an­tiabor­tion ac­tivists and lead­ers Trump has picked for key po­si­tions at the agency.

Like many con­ser­va­tives who op­pose abor­tion rights, Man­ning has re­peat­edly ob­jected to the use of RU-486, or mifepri­s­tone, which is of­ten used with miso­pros­tol to trig­ger an abor­tion dur­ing the early stages of a preg­nancy, as well as the morn­ing-af­ter pill.

But she also has ex­pressed deep skep­ti­cism of birth con­trol over­all, sug­gest­ing in a 2003 in­ter­view with NPR that “contraception doesn’t work.”

“Its ef­fi­cacy is very low, es­pe­cially when you con­sider over years — which 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. The prospect that contraception would al­ways pre­vent the con­cep­tion of a child is pre­pos­ter­ous,” Man­ning said at the time.

Abor­tion-rights ac­tivists protested Man­ning’s ap­point­ment, say­ing some­one op­posed to contraception shouldn’t over­see Ti­tle X.

Her re­place­ment has long ad­vo­cated for ab­sti­nence ed­u­ca­tion. Hu­ber man­aged Ohio’s ab­sti­nence pro­gram from 2004 to 2007 and sub­se­quently led As­cend, a group ini­tially founded as the Na­tional Ab­sti­nence Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion. She says she prefers to use the term “sex­ual risk avoid­ance,” telling Fo­cus on the Fam­ily’s Cit­i­zen mag­a­zine that As­cend’s mis­sion is broader than telling teens not to have sex.

“I bris­tle at the ter­mi­nol­ogy ‘ab­sti­nence only,’ be­cause our pro­grams are so holis­tic,” Hu­ber said. “They con­tex­tu­al­ize a whole bat­tery of dif­fer­ent top­ics that sur­round a young per­son’s de­ci­sion whether to have sex or not. Rather than some­one telling a young per­son, ‘Do this, don’t do that,’ it’s cast­ing a vi­sion for a young per­son’s fu­ture.”

Some fam­ily plan­ning ad­vo­cates, such as Ginny Ehrlich, chief ex­ec­u­tive at the non­profit Power to De­cide, crit­i­cized the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ci­sion to put Hu­ber in charge of the Of­fice of Pop­u­la­tion Af­fairs.

“Man­ning’s de­par­ture would be pos­i­tive news ex­cept for the fact that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has cho­sen to re­place Man­ning with Va­lerie Hu­ber, who is well known for plac­ing ide­ol­ogy over an ev­i­dence­based ap­proach to en­sur­ing that young peo­ple have the in­for­ma­tion and ser­vices they need to avoid an un­planned preg­nancy,” said Ehrlich, whose group backs fed­eral sup­port for sex ed­u­ca­tion and a wide range of contraception meth­ods. “What we really need is for this ad­min­is­tra­tion to take women’s health is­sues se­ri­ously and ap­point an in­di­vid­ual who is not only well qual­i­fied for the po­si­tion, but also val­ues women.”

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