Alex Azar is Bad For Women’s Health — Especially Black Women.
By China Dickerson, Deputy Political Director
This week, the Senate Finance committee held a vote to advance Donald Trump’s newest pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services — Alex Azar. For those trying to follow every wild development coming from this administration, let me remind you that if confirmed, Azar would be Trump’s second HHS Secretary in less than a year. His first secretary, Tom Price, resigned after the world discovered he was flying private planes on the taxpayer dime, right around the same time he was trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act — the nation’s landmark healthcare law that provided millions of Americans with health insurance for the first time ever. With Price out, we at NARAL Pro-Choice America have been waiting to hear from Trump’s second choice to lead the department. Well, after watching Azar’s Senate hearing last week, let me tell you: I’m not impressed.
Azar’s anti-choice record should concern all Americans — especially black women. During his career, he claimed to be committed to “protecting the unborn,” a remark we know has nothing to do with healthy pregnancies, and everything to do with undermining women’s rights. He is also an outspoken opponent of the ACA — which insured three million black Americans and four million latinx Americans — and has donated to many anti-choice politicians obsessed with holding women back. Given Azar’s clear, anti-choice record, Azar’s nomination is especially dangerous because it’s clear he will embolden Donald Trump and the anti-choice GOP’s current use of HHS to carry out their obsession with rolling back our reproductive rights.
It’s a fact that black women have significantly worse health outcomes than white women. Heart disease is significantly more likely to kill a black woman than a white woman. Cervical cancer is over 70 percent more likely to kill a black woman than a white woman. And when it comes to maternal mortality, the data is stunning: a black woman is 243% more likely to die from health complications related to childbirth than a white woman. That’s why the Affordable Care Act is critical for black women who otherwise may not be insured. And furthermore, black women deserve to make our own decisions about when to have children, including when it’s right for us and our families. But Alex Azar either doesn’t see that, or doesn’t care. Why else would he support anti-choice policies and denounce the ACA?
When the administration and folks like Alex Azar advocate for policies that restrict reproductive rights, black women are hit the hardest. When Donald Trump issued a new rule that severely undermines the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit, he said to women that control over their own lives and destinies wasn’t a priority to him (not that that’s any surprise). When Donald Trump installed in his administration men and women who, for decades, spent their careers writing policy that made abortion inaccessible for women, he signaled that reproductive rights aren’t worth a thing to him. All of these actions disproportionately hurt black women who deserve unfettered access to reproductive health care, no matter our zipcode, what’s in our pocket books, or the color of our skin.
The health, rights, and reproductive freedom of women all across America are on the line as the Trump administration and the anti-choice GOP take away our bodily autonomy under the guise of religion. But let’s be clear: Azar’s nomination, and these wider HHS attacks on our reproductive rights, are especially devastating for black women and women of color.
To millions of Americans of color, this isn’t some abstract fight about social issues, these are the kitchen table issues that affect our ability to continue our education, rise up in our career, and plan for our future. Access to contraception helps a woman achieve her educational and career goals, plain and simple. The ability to put off having a child if she chooses can lead to a more stable income than that of her peers who were unable to delay a pregnancy until the time was right.
Anyone interested in supporting all women and families must understand that you cannot expand economic opportunity without supporting our right to choose if, how, and when to have a family. This was never about policy, and when the anti-choice GOP undermines our rights and takes away access to basic healthcare, they’re saying that the health and well-being of women — especially black women and women of color — is not a priority.