Expect the communications strategy at Health and Human Services to take a sharp turn toward life. Donald Trump appointed Dr. Charmaine Yoest, a longtime pro-life advocate, to a key position at HHS:
President Donald Trump Friday said he would name one of the most prominent anti-abortion activists in the country to a top communications post at Health and Human Services.
Charmaine Yoest, tapped to be to be assistant secretary of public affairs, is a senior fellow at American Values. She is the former president of Americans United for Life, one of the most prominent anti-abortion groups in the country, which has been instrumental in advancing anti-abortion legislation at the state level to restrict access to the procedure.
Full disclosure: I count Charmaine and Jack Yoest among my friends. We first met more than a decade ago at various events, but I got to know both of them better during the three Justice Sunday efforts to push for confirmation of George W. Bush’s Supreme Court nominees. These came before Charmaine’s tenure as president of Americans United for Life in 2008, where she has tirelessly advocated for pro-life policies. She and Jack are among the happiest of warriors, and the warmest of friends.
The appointment signals a desire for an even closer relationship with the pro-life movement, especially at HHS. It comes at a good time, too, as conservatives had begun to wonder about that commitment after the Department of Justice acted to continue defending HHS’s contraception mandate, or at least had not yet taken the opportunity to withdraw from them. Yoest’s addition to the team resets the signals, at least for now, and ensures an aggressive media campaign in support of the contraception mandate’s eventual unwinding.
Axios’ Jonathan Swan also reported on the White House’s efforts to boost morale among supporters on religious liberty and pro-life policies. Leonard Leo says actions will come soon when the efforts become bullet-proof against litigation, including an executive order protecting religious expression:
Several movement leaders have told me privately that they worry Trump has judged this too politically risky to bother with. But Leo tells me the delay has nothing to do with that. He says senior officials at the Justice Department and the White House are working through complicated negotiations over how to structure health insurance transactions.
“The administration is not stepping back. It’s doing precisely what it should be doing here… because of the way people are attacking Trump executive orders, it’s very important that this thing gets done right and be as litigation-proof as possible, knowing full well they’re going to get sued anyway.”
The addition of Charmaine Yoest to the administration will no doubt alleviate some of those concerns — for now. At some point, movement leaders need to see action, especially on the contraception mandate. When it comes, though, Charmaine will definitely lead the charge to define it properly. Congratulations to my friend, and best wishes for success.