The United States Office of Population Affairs is now being overseen by a woman who does not believe in a woman’s right to choose or the benefits of sexual education for students.
On Tuesday (May 29), President Donald Trump installed Diane Foley as deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. In this position, Foley will run the Office of Population Affairs. As a part of her duties, she will be in charge of Title X, the only federal program dedicated to providing family planning and related preventive services.
Title X was established by the federal government in 1970 to provide affordable birth control and reproductive health care for lower-income earning people. According to Planned Parenthood, more than four million people use it annually. About two-thirds of those who visit family planning services live below the federal poverty level, reports NBC News.
On May 18, the Trump administration announced that health providers who receive Title X funding cannot perform abortions, support the procedure or accept referrals for them at facilities that offer taxpayer-backed operations. Those operations include women’s wellness exams, contraception counseling, mammograms and other reproductive health procedures.
“This rule is a clear attack on reproductive rights and will have a devastating impact on Black women,” Linda Goler Blount, president and CEO of Black Women’s Health Imperative, said at the time of the announcement.
Prior to joining the Trump administration, Foley was president and CEO of Life Network. According to its website, this Colorado-based organization believes in “life-affirmative alternatives to abortion.” The Life Network also supports sexual risk avoidance courses in lieu of sex education for middle school and high school students. The Colorado Springs Independent reported in 2010 that Foley said it could be construed as “sexually harassing” to put a condom on a banana in a classroom.
The organization reportedly runs two “crisis pregnancy centers.” From a Rewire.News article on Foley’s appointment:
The organization and Foley were featured in a short documentary released by Vice News in 2016. In it, Foley says the clinic does not “do prenatal care” but provides infant clothing for women who use “baby bucks” they earn through the organization’s “mentoring program.”
“We feel very strongly that we shouldn’t give things away, because when you have to work for something it gives you a sense of self efficacy,” Foley said in the interview, though the organization’s website claims that baby clothing is offered “free of charge.” She said she feels the choice to have a child “occurs before the pregnancy, and so from a personal standpoint” she could not support abortion rights, but that she did recognize it was a legal choice.
Reproductive rights activists have been vocal in their criticism of Foley’s appointment. Chitra Panjabi, president and CEO of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S., said in a statement that, “Anyone who perpetuates falsehoods about the safety of abortion as a medical procedure, views a standard condom-and-banana classroom demonstration as ‘sexual harassment,’ and supports withholding information from young people has no business making decisions that affect sexual and reproductive health care for millions.”
*Story updated to reflect correct name of Rewire.News.