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Antiabortion activist abruptly steps down as head of HHS's family planning division

The Washington Post logoThe Washington Post 1/13/2018 Juliet Eilperin, Paige Winfield Cunningham
a close up of a building: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) building in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File) © Provided by WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) building in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Teresa Manning — an antiabortion activist in charge of the Health and Human Services Department’s family planning programs — resigned her post Friday, according to a department spokeswoman.

Manning, who serves as deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Population Affairs, has devoted much of her career to fighting abortion and has publicly questioned the efficacy of several popular contraception methods. Her job includes overseeing the Title X program, which provides family-planning funding for poor Americans or those without health insurance.

In an email Friday evening, HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley confirmed Manning’s resignation but did not provide a reason for her abrupt departure.

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“HHS would like to thank her for her service to this Administration and the American people,” Oakley said.

It does not appear that Manning’s resignation represents a major ideological shift in the department, since Valerie Huber, a prominent abstinence education advocate, has been named acting deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Population Affairs. Huber has served as chief of staff in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health since June.

Manning, who was appointed by President Trump last May, formerly lobbied for the National Right to Life Committee and worked as a legislative analyst for the Family Research Council. She was one of several antiabortion activists and leaders Trump picked for key positions at the agency.

Like many conservatives who oppose abortion rights, Manning has repeatedly objected to the use of RU-486, or mifepristone, which is often used with misoprostol to spur an abortion during the early stages of a pregnancy, as well as the morning-after pill.

But she has also expressed a deep skepticism of birth control overall, suggesting in a 2003 interview with NPR that “contraception doesn’t work.”

“Its efficacy is very low, especially when you consider over years — which a lot of contraception health advocates want to start women in their adolescent years, when they’re extremely fertile, incidentally, and continue for 10, 20, 30 years. The prospect that contraception would always prevent the conception of a child is preposterous,” Manning said at the time.

Abortion-rights activists protested to Manning’s appointment at the time, saying someone opposed to contraception shouldn’t oversee Title X, which provides about 4 million Americans with family planning services.

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