President Donald Trump on Friday said he intends to appoint Charmaine Yoest, a prominent anti-abortion advocate, as assistant secretary of public affairs for the Department of Health and Human Services.
Yoest, who was a Trump campaign surrogate, is the former president and CEO of Americans United for Life, an advocacy group chipping away at abortion rights across the country. The organization is best known for drafting most of the anti-abortion bills that have passed in state legislatures in recent years. Those measures have included legislation banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and efforts to undermine Planned Parenthood.
“As we’re moving forward at the state level, we end up hollowing out [Roe v. Wade] even without the Supreme Court,” Yoest told The New York Times in 2012. “That’s really where our strategy is so solid.”
Yoest is currently a fellow at American Values, a conservative nonprofit that opposes abortion rights and same-sex marriage.
The announcement was immediately condemned by Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
“Trump has broken nearly all of his promises to the American people in his first 100 days, but he has certainly stuck to his pledge to erode the constitutional right to abortion, punishing women in the process,” Hogue said in a statement. “This nomination helps fulfill that twisted promise and speaks volumes about the Trump administration’s continued disdain for reproductive freedom and women’s rights.”
“It is unacceptable that someone with a history of promoting myths and false information about women’s health is appointed to a government position whose main responsibility is to provide the public with accurate and factual information,” said Planned Parenthood Federation America executive vice president Dawn Laguens. “Charmaine Yoest has spent her whole professional life opposing access to birth control and a woman’s right to a safe, legal abortion. While President Trump claims to empower women, he is appointing government officials who believe just the opposite.”
Yoest, in her new role, will shape the HHS communications strategy. The appointment does not require Senate confirmation.
The announcement reflects Trump’s continuing assault on abortion rights. He signed a bill this month allowing states to withhold funds from organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, that provide abortion services.
And shortly after his inauguration, he signed an executive order reinstating a ban on giving U.S. funds to nongovernmental organizations that offer or advise on family planning options if those options include abortion.
Donations to Planned Parenthood, meanwhile, have skyrocketed during Trump’s presidency.
“I take no joy in our popularity or support when it comes at the expense of women in this country,” Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards told HuffPost this week. “Planned Parenthood’s popularity is stronger, our membership base is stronger, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that millions of women’s health care is at risk under Donald Trump. His first 100 days have been incredibly painful for women.”