New Lawsuit Seeks HHS Communications with Anti-Abortion Groups

On Thursday, American Oversight sued the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to shed light on the influence that anti-abortion groups have on agency policy.

Our lawsuit seeks communications between senior Trump administration appointees in the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and various anti-abortion groups, including Alliance Defending Freedom, the Center for Medical Progress, Americans United for Life, the Heritage Foundation, the Family Research Council and many others. The lawsuit also targets calendar entries for senior appointees, and any communications that OCR Senior Adviser Justin Butterfield had with his former clients.

Before joining HHS, Butterfield was senior counsel at First Liberty Institute, a religious freedom organization that was involved in a lawsuit challenging rules requiring health insurers to cover contraceptive care.

The presence of officials at HHS with extreme anti-abortion stances is unsurprising in the Trump administration. In 2017 and 2018, American Oversight obtained resumes for HHS senior appointees, many of which mention anti-abortion beliefs and past experience with related groups, including that of senior adviser Louis Brown, who worked on efforts to repeal the ACA and “educated Congress” about the “sanctity of life in health care.” Another appointee described himself as a “full-time, pro-life volunteer.”

American Oversight also obtained HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s and Deputy Secretary Hargan’s calendars in late 2018. Hargan’s calendars show that during his three months as acting secretary, he met with anti-choice groups as well as the law firm that represented the Catholic Benefits Association in its lawsuit against HHS’ contraceptive mandate.

See the our new lawsuit below:

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