Earlier today, President Trump announced his appointment of Charmaine Yoest, a leading architect of anti-abortion legislation and activism, to be assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Yoest most recently worked as a senior fellow for American Values, the Religious Right group founded by Gary Bauer, and previously led Americans United for Life (AUL), the group that helped draft model legislation used by lawmakers in states across the country to undermine abortion access. She also once served as vice president of the Family Research Council, a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group.
In 2014, Yoest said that AUL was responsible for one third of “pro-life laws since 2010,” the period when states passed a record number of laws attacking abortion rights. AUL championed the incrementalism strategy to make abortion care more and more difficult to access through targeted regulations of abortion providers, or TRAP laws. As Yoest put it, anti-abortion activists are “marching down the field”—“yard by yard by yard”—steadily shutting down abortion clinics.
In an interview with The Atlantic, which noted that AUL “is almost single-handedly responsible for the wave of pro-life legislation that state legislatures have passed in recent years,” she compared her strategy to a game of chess: “In terms of social change you have to think about what’s the next move. You’re not going to capture the queen in one fell swoop.”
In an address to the radically anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ World Congress of Families, which at the time was led by her mother, right-wing activist Janice Shaw Crouse, Yoest touted AUL’s success in passing anti-abortion laws and described their work as akin to the struggles of abolitionists and leaders of the civil rights movement, framing it as the modern civil rights and social justice fight against the “culture of death.”
“Focus on the state houses and test the limits of Roe v. Wade,” she told World Congress of Families attendees. “The story of the next several decades is one of trench warfare and gaining ground under the radar.” At a March for Life event, she similarly described her group as pushing a “stealth strategy” against legal abortion.
Yoest and AUL were also involved in the fight to undermine Planned Parenthood, and Yoest praised anti-Planned Parenthood hoax video creator Lila Rose as “the Upton Sinclair of this generation.”
“We must make defunding Planned Parenthood a national priority: not one tax dollar should be given to fuel the abortion industry,” Yoest said. AUL also released the report, “The Case For Investigating Planned Parenthood,” and worked with then-congressman Mike Pence on trying to defund the women’s health organization.
Despite her attempts to frame anti-abortion advocacy as a “pro-woman” effort—she once described abortion rights supporters as “the true misogynists in our society”—she nonetheless joined Trump’s campaign as a member of his “pro-life advisory council,” not seeming to mind his record of misogyny.
While responding to Trump’s comments bragging that he sexually assaults women and can get away with it because he’s famous, she said that liberals have no business criticizing him since they don’t ever complain about “Beyoncé and Jay-Z, who have lyrics that are replete with this kind of vulgarity.”
When Trump announced that Neil Gorsuch was his pick for the Supreme Court, Yoest was among the group of right-wing leaders to meet with Trump, thanking him for picking a right-wing jurist as his nominee. She also defended the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw guidelines protecting transgender students, claiming that the Obama-era policy gave an “opening” for “sexual predators.”
Now Yoest is receiving a major reward for her loyalty to Trump.
At the Department of Health and Human Services, she will join conservative stalwarts like Secretary Tom Price and HHS Office of Civil Rights head Roger Severino to continue her war against reproductive health care.