Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2021 / 10:25 am
President-elect Joe Biden will nominate a supporter of the contraceptive mandate to a top position at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), he announced on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Biden announced that he would nominate Dr. Rachel Levine, a biological man identifying as a transgender woman who has served as Pennsylvania’s health secretary since 2017, to be HHS Assistant Secretary for Health. Before serving as Pennsylvania’s health secretary, Levine served as the state’s physician general.
Levine has been outspoken on social issues, supporting gender-transition surgery and the contraceptive mandate while opposing a proposed 20-week abortion ban.
Levine’s nomination to HHS, along with that of Health Secretary nominee Xavier Becerra, signals that social issues could be priorities at the agency for the next several years. These might include pro-LGBTQ policies, funding of abortion providers, and religious freedom conflicts with Catholic organizations.
Regarding the Obama-era HHS contraceptive mandate, Levine in 2017 called it “immoral and unethical” to allow for religious exemptions to the mandate. Hundreds of non-profits and businesses—including the Little Sisters of the Poor—had objected to the mandate and the Obama administration’s opt-out process for objecting non-profits.
After the Trump administration announced in 2017 that religious employers and other organizations morally opposed to the contraceptive mandate could receive exemptions from it, Levine issued a sharp statement in opposition.
“It is immoral and unethical to give any employer the ability to take away access to health care from an entire gender,” Levine said as Pennsylvania’s acting health secretary, in 2017. “We cannot allow women's health to be reduced to one issue or be jeopardized in any way.”
Levine also wrote an op-ed against the Trump administration’s reversal of Obama-era rules on transgender accommodation.