On Thursday, Alex Azar, the Secretary of Health and Human Services released a statement in which he called his agency the “Department of Life,” an overt nod to the many anti-abortion measures that the Trump administration has championed to weaken abortion and reproductive health access throughout the country and around the world.
Department of Life! It would be laughable if it weren’t so terrifying, or such an accurate description of the anti-abortion policies that the agency has pushed in recent years, from pressuring Title X-funded clinics to stop making abortion referrals to threatening to pull federal funding from states like California if they continue to require health insurance plans cover abortions to eagerly pursuing complaints about abortion providers under the guise of religious freedom and civil rights protections.
“It is really rich for an agency that was a primary architect of putting children in cages at the border to call themselves the ‘Department of Life,’” NARAL Pro-Choice America’s President Ilyse Hogue wrote in a statement. She added, “This is just another in a long line of dark and dystopian moves from Donald Trump and the anti-choice movement attacking our reproductive freedoms.”
Timed to coincide with Friday’s annual anti-abortion March for Life—during which Donald Trump, the first president ever to appear in person at the protest, attempted to pretend that he’s a Christian and again ranted about Democrats wanting to kill babies right after they’re born—Azar’s statement described the Trump administration as “the most pro-life administration in this country’s history.” We are proud to be ‘the Department of Life’ and will continue protecting life and lives while upholding the fundamental freedoms and inherent dignity of all Americans,” Azar wrote. In another sign of how much HHS has embraced the March for Life, an email was recently sent to all HHS staff that glowingly described the March for Life as the “largest annual human rights demonstration in the world.” Per Politico reporter Dan Diamond:
HHS, under the Trump administration, has been stocked with anti-abortion religious zealots, from Azar to Roger Severino, the director of HHS’ Office of Civil Rights and the former director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the Heritage Foundation. In 2018, a moderator at the Evangelicals for Life conference described HHS as “a true bright spot in this administration when it comes to protection of life and protection of conscience.” For everyone who cares about abortion access and reproductive health, they unfortunately weren’t wrong.