Lying Liars and the Lies They Tell

Taken from the September/October 2017 issue of the Women's Health Activist Newsletter.

Here’s just a few:

  • “Of course, contraception doesn’t work.” (Teresa Manning, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services [HHS])
  • “Chemical birth control causes abortions” (Katy Talento, Special Assistant to the President, Domestic Policy Council)
  • “Abortion causes breast cancer.” (Charmaine Yoest, Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs, HHS)

Crazy talk heard in the crowd at an anti-abortion rally? Nope, these are on-the-record quotations from three of President Trump’s selections for senior positions at the White House and HHS, the nation’s health department. These folks deserve to be called out for their harmful statements, and I’m not afraid to use my position as the director of a trusted and influential women’s health advocacy group to say these women are liars.

These lies are misleading, and risk harming women who are misled by them. But, there’s another, much more frightening, aspect to the lies told by Trump’s senior officials: they’re not only lying about the effects of reproductive health technology, they’re also using our language – the language of reproductive justice and rights — to claim that they’re acting in the best interests of women.

Teresa Manning has gotten a lot of attention for her opposition to the very program she’s now in charge of. That’s right. Teresa Manning thinks that contraception doesn’t work, is dangerous, and causes abortions…and now she oversee Title X, the Federal government’s family planning program. Title X is a vital program that helps ensure that people who lack health care coverage can get reproductive health services and prescriptions. More than four million people received Title X-funded family planning services in 2015. Putting an opponent of contraception in charge of Title X is bad enough, but Manning doesn’t just espouse bad policy, she tries to justify her personal opposition to abortion and contraception by claiming that she’s “protecting” vulnerable women from risky drugs approved by a spineless Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For example, when the FDA approved mifepristone, Manning said “the FDA is so willing to put women at risk – to the point where it protects drug companies more than an injured woman,” ignoring the drug’s established record of safety and efficacy. What Teresa Manning actually wants to do is exactly what her former employer, the National Right to Life Committee, wants, too – criminalize abortion and most forms of contraception. Now she’s in a position to advance her extremist views.

Or, take Charmaine Yoest. While at the helm of Americans United for Life (AUL) for seven years, Yoest tried to stop abortion by promoting state legislation that makes it impossible for clinics and doctors to provide abortion care, and creates barriers that hamper women’s access to abortion care. These efforts include Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws, and forcing women to hear false medical information before they can receive abortion care. Yoest is committing to ending abortion, which she believes is wrong in all cases. But, in an interview with the New York Times, she explained that, when she isn’t talking to fellow anti-abortionists, she usually “…explain that we work on moving forward legislation about informed consent, and making sure women get the best standard of medical care.” What the f***?

Legislation requiring physicians to tell women that abortion causes breast cancer is “informed consent?” Heck no! Legislation requiring women have vaginal ultrasounds is “making sure that women get the best standard of medical care?” No again!

And what about Katy Talento? In an article she wrote for The Federalist, Talento used this headline to lie about the Pill’s effects: “Ladies, it’s time you knew what your doctor isn’t telling you. Chemical birth control can have terrible side effects, including miscarriage.” Does Katy Talento really want doctors to provide full and complete information to women about oral contraception (that’s what she is referring to here)? I’m guessing not, since the list of medically accurate information about birth control pills includes facts that don’t fit with Talento’s misleading message – such as the pill’s strong safety record and high effectiveness rate.

These women seek to use language and goals of the women’s health movement – “informed consent” “women’s right to know” – as a tactic. They want to do away with abortion care and most forms of contraception for religious and ideological reasons. They know they can’t win by revealing their true purpose, so they present their radical agenda as trying to help women protect their health.

I’m sorry, Katy, but I don’t believe your concern for women’s health is genuine. Same goes for you, Charmaine and Teresa. I think you’re lying liars, and you’re perverting the goals of the women’s health movement to promote an anti-woman agenda.

I don’t like seeing anti-women’s rights leaders use women’s rights language. It annoys the heck out of me. But I’m not going to stop using women’s health language to promote a pro-woman agenda. When the NWHN says that we believe that doctors should tell women the truth about the medicines they take, we mean exactly that. We’re not afraid of admitting that some perfectly good reproductive health technologies have complications (see the article on blood clots in this issue) but we never exaggerate the risks of health technologies because we believe the purpose they’re used for is wrong. So, if you have questions, remember that the NWHN has accurate facts, and we have your back.

Cindy Pearson has served as the NWHN’s Executive Director for 25 years. One of the most respected women’s health advocates in the country, she regularly testifies before Congress, the NIH, and the FDA. Cindy is often featured as a consumer expert on women’s health issues in news publications and for conferences and currently serves as President of the Board of Directors for Women’s Health Specialists.

Read more from Cindy Pearson.

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Eilperin J, “Trump Picks Anti-Abortion Activist to Head HHS Family Planning Program,” The Washington Post, May 2, 2017. Online:
Salaky K, “Trump’s New Health Care Policy Staffer Thinks Birth Control Causes Abortions,” TPM, January 5 2017. Online:
Bazelon E, “Charmaine Yoest’s Cheerful War on Abortion, The New York Times, November 2, 2012. Online:
Wagner T, “A Rush to Market, Not a Remedy,” Washington Times, December 2, 2000.
Bazelon E, “Charmaine Yoest’s Cheerful War on Abortion, The New York Times, November 2, 2012. Online:
Talento KF, “Miscarriage of Justice: is Big Pharma Breaking Your Uterus?” The Federalist, January 22, 2015. Online: