The foot soldiers in the Trump-Pence religious health movement

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With Donald Trump’s election in 2016, Vice President Mike Pence emerged as a force in reshaping American health policy. Aligning the policy with Pence’s evangelical Christian principles, the administration stocked the Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies with a cadre of pro-life staff members.

FILE PHOTO: Andrew Bremberg, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Oxon Hill, Maryland, U.S. February 24, 2017. To match Special Report USA-PENCE/HHS REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

This story lists 10 of those appointees. Through HHS and the White House, most declined interview requests.

An HHS spokesperson, responding to Reuters questions about agency personnel and actions, cited a January statement from Secretary Alex Azar, who touted the administration’s anti-abortion policies and pledged to “continue to advance science and improve the health of Americans while protecting our most fundamental freedoms: the right to life and the right of conscience.”



Position: Domestic Policy Council, special assistant to the president

Background: Talento, an epidemiologist and former Senate staffer, coordinated health policy throughout the administration. A longtime abortion foe, she criticizes medical birth control as harmful to women’s health and has written that transgender people suffer from “the catastrophic effects of declaring war on our own bodies.” Talento left the position last week.


Position: Former head of Domestic Policy Council; now nominated as ambassador to the United Nations mission in Geneva.

Background: Bremberg, a health policy expert, served as co-chair of the HHS transition team that stocked the agency with religious conservatives before serving as chief of the White House policy operation. He drafted the expanded Mexico City policy that imposes anti-abortion rules on billions in U.S. health aid.


Position: HHS, Counselor for Human Services Policy

Background: A former HHS official under the Obama administration and director of the U.S. House Pro-Life Caucus, Wynne worked for the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic service organization, before rejoining HHS. She served on the transition team, helped bring in other anti-abortion activists and participated in attempts to prevent pregnant immigrant girls from obtaining abortions.



Position: Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Population Affairs

Background: The former head of Life Network, a center that counseled pregnant women not to have abortions, Foley promoted abstinence programs for young people. Foley oversees the Title X program that provides family planning services.


Position: Chief of Staff, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health

Background: A former interim legislative director at Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, Valentine helps supervise the Title X grant program. With other anti-abortion advocates in the office, he tried to end the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, a move blocked by the courts.


Position: Senior policy advisor, HHS Office of Global Affairs

Background: The former president of a Washington group that championed “sexual risk avoidance,” or abstinence as an alternative for birth control, Huber wrote a paper that said Christians should promote “God’s sexual guidelines to life” in sex education and public health policy. Huber worked on the attempt to kill the Teen Pregnancy Program, and now works on international health policy.



Position: Director, Office of Civil Rights at HHS

Background: A Harvard-educated attorney and Catholic conservative, Severino worked as a civil rights lawyer at DOJ before joining a center on religion at the Heritage Foundation. He has opposed same-sex marriage, calling it a threat to religious liberty, and criticized the rule allowing transgender people to serve in the military. “Everyone should have the freedom to choose to follow the truth as best as they see it without government coercion,” Severino said in an interview.


Position: Chief of Staff, Office for Civil Rights

Background: An abortion opponent and former Justice Department attorney, Bell was staff director for a House panel that investigated Planned Parenthood for selling baby parts, an inquiry that grew out of a controversial video sting operation.


Position: Deputy general counsel, HHS

Background: As senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that defends religious conservatives, Bowman was part of a “life litigation project,” working on cases against the contraception mandate in Obamacare. He himself has been arrested for demonstrating outside abortion clinics.


Position: Former head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, now senior advisor at the Center of Faith and Opportunity Initiatives

Background: When Lloyd ran the office responsible for caring for young migrants, he tried to block some of the underage women from having abortions, sparking court battles. A lawyer, Lloyd helped found a firm that worked on cases based on Catholic doctrine on birth control and abortion. “The law is pagan territory,” he has written. “Look no further than no fault divorce, legalized abortion on demand, and gay marriage as confirmation.”

Editing by Ronnie Greene