With Extremist Tom Price at Helm, the 'War on Women Has Reached HHS'

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With Extremist Tom Price at Helm, the 'War on Women Has Reached HHS'

"Our nation's HHS Secretary should aim to break down barriers to healthcare. Instead, Tom Price wants to build more."

Tom Price, 62, must undergo Senate confirmation to become head of the Department of Health and Human Services. (Photo: Brookings Institution/flickr/cc)

President-elect Donald Trump's pick to be the nation's top health official has an abysmal record on women's issues and LGBTQ rights, advocates are warning on Tuesday.

U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), an orthopedic surgeon and an original House Tea Party caucus member, "has been at the center of congressional efforts to repeal Obamacare as chairman of the House Budget Committee," reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"With the selection of Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services, Donald Trump is sending a clear signal that he intends to punish women who seek abortion care."
—Sasha Bruce, NARAL Pro-Choice America

As head of the Department of Health and Human Services, he'd oversee an agency "with an annual budget of more than $1 trillion, health programs that insure more than 100 million Americans, and agencies that regulate food and drugs and sponsor much of the nation's biomedical research," as the New York Times pointed out.

Beyond his clear intention to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, Price's nomination falls in line with warnings that women's right to choose is threatened under a Trump-Pence administration.

Price "poses a grave threat to women's health," said Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards. "Our nation's HHS Secretary should aim to break down barriers to healthcare. Instead, Tom Price wants to build more."

He's voted repeatedly to defund Planned Parenthood while supporting and co-sponsoring a number of anti-abortion bills in Congress. Indeed, Bustle notes, "he's voted against abortion rights six times in 2016 alone."

Citing these votes, NARAL Pro-Choice America senior vice president Sasha Bruce declared:

With the selection of Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services, Donald Trump is sending a clear signal that he intends to punish women who seek abortion care. Tom Price is someone who has made clear throughout his career that he does not trust women to make our own decisions about our health care. Instead, he wants to punish us for the choices we make for our bodies, our futures, and our families. In Congress, Tom Price cosponsored some of the most offensive anti-choice legislation on record, legislation that could ban abortion for almost any reason. Not only has Tom Price tried to outlaw abortion nationwide, including in cases of rape, incest, and health of the woman, he has worked to put an outright ban on the most common forms of contraception. As chair of the Budget Committee, he has been on the front lines of the efforts to dismantle the lifesaving Affordable Care Act, as well as the dangerous attempts to defund Planned Parenthood. For the seven in 10 Americans who support legal access to abortion, this is an incredibly alarming pick.

"Perhaps even more telling than Price's disgusting but not altogether unsurprising views on abortion was his vote against the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act," the outlet continued. "Although the bill passed handily in the House in 2013, Price was among a number of House Republicans who voted against it. Despite never giving any quotes on the subject, a number of Price's Republican colleagues in the House reportedly voted against it because they were dissatisfied with the protections the VAWA gives to LGBT people—an incredibly gross cherry on top of this discriminatory milkshake."

In 2012, he claimed there was "not one" woman who struggled to afford birth control in the absence of insurance coverage.

"In fact," ThinkProgress wrote at the time, "there are tens of millions of women in the United States who have struggled to afford or don't have access to contraception. A recent Hart Research survey found that one in three women voters have struggled to afford prescription birth control, including 55 percent of young women aged 18 to 34."

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In 2009, Price was at the center of a debacle that involved House Republicans shouting over members of the Democratic Women's Caucus as they attempted to offer arguments on a healthcare bill.

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His record on LGBTQ issues is no less troubling. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, Price called it "not only a sad day for marriage, but a further judicial destruction of our entire system of checks and balances." He's earned a zero rating (pdf) from the Human Rights Campaign for several years running.

And according to People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch, on talk radio in 2013, Price agreed with a caller who "warned about the 'tremendous medical health impact and economic impact' of the 'homosexual agenda.'"

"The caller was none other than Rabbi Noson Leiter, who blamed Hurricane Sandy on New York's marriage equality law," Right Wing Watch reported. "Price hailed Leiter and said he was 'absolutely right,' adding that 'the consequences of activity that has been seen as outside the norm are real and must be explored completely and in their entirety prior to moving forward with any social legislation that would alter things.'"

"Price's hateful record on LGBTQ issues shows that he lacks an understanding of basic human rights and dignity," said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of the LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD. That record renders him "completely unfit for secretary of Health and Human Services," she added.

As such, any attempts to paint Price as just another establishment Republican calls to mind a warning from Campaign for America's Future blogger Terrance Heath, issued when Price took over for House Speaker Paul Ryan as House Budget Committee chair in 2013.

"If Price's wingnuttery is what passes for moderate in today's Republican party," Heath wrote at the time, "things are going to get scary."

Observers weighed in on Trump's latest selection on social media:

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