Obama Names Lobbyist for Plan B Drug as Top HHS Lawyer
by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 12/20/12 12:13 PM
President Barack Obama, in what appears to be a significant conflict of interest, has named a lobbyist for the maker of the Plan B morning after pill as the top attorney for the Health and Human Services Department.
Obama nominated William Schultz to become the leading attorney for the Department of Health and Human Services at a time when it faces dozens of lawsuits from pro-life and religious groups over the HHS mandate requiring religious employers to pay for drugs that may cause abortions.
“William Schultz’s nomination as general counsel of HHS once again demonstrates that Obama’s lobbyist restrictions were toothless, and that Obamacare made the revolving door spin faster. The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to consider Schultz’s nomination Thursday,” the Washington Examiner reports.
Schultz has a history of working for abortion advocates — spending 13 years as an attorney for Ralph Nader’s group and then a stint as the deputy commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration during the Clinton administration. During the Clinton years, the FDA approved the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug for sale in the United States, which has been used to destroy the lives of millions of unborn children and has resulted in the deaths of 14 women and injuries to thousands more.
The major conflict of interest now concerns Schultz’s lobbying for a top Washington-based firm.
“Nearly half of that money — $1.46 million — came from Schultz’s biggest client, Barr Laboratories, maker of the morning-after contraception pill known as Plan B. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in 2011 issued a rule requiring nearly all employer-based health plans to cover 100 percent of the cost of Plan B along with other contraceptives,” the Examiner reports.
But his office won’t tell a reporter from the newspaper if he plans to recuse himself in the pending litigation.
“A handful of lawsuits have challenged this mandate. As general counsel for HHS, Schultz would presumably be the point man on defending the mandate. Has he been recusing himself? Schultz’s office dodged my question on the subject,” the newspaper reports.
The dustup over Schultz’s nomination comes as a federal appeals court gave pro-life advocates a big victory this week. It reinstated two of the top legal challenges to the mandate, which requires religious employers to pay for drugs that may cause abortions.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals handed Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey College a major victory in their challenges to the HHS mandate. Previously, two lower courts had dismissed their lawsuits as premature because the Obama administration is expected to revise the mandate next year. However, the appellate court reinstated those cases.
The federal appeals court also ordered the Obama Administration to report back every 60 days—starting in mid-February—until the Administration makes good on its promise to issue a new rule that protects their religious freedom. The Obama administration was ordered to rewrite the mandate by March 2013.
“The D.C. Circuit has now made it clear that government promises and press conferences are not enough to protect religious freedom,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who argued the case. “The court is not going to let the government slide by on non-binding promises to fix the problem down the road.”
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Duncan told LifeNews the appeals court based its decision on two concessions that government lawyers made in open court.
First, the government promised “it would never enforce [the mandate] in its current form” against Wheaton, Belmont Abbey or other similarly situated religious groups. Second, the government promised it would publish a proposed new rule “in the first quarter of 2013” and would finalize it by next August.
Duncan said the Obama administration made both concessions under intense questioning by the appellate judges and that the court deemed the concessions a “binding commitment” and has retained jurisdiction over the case to ensure the government follows through.
“This is a win not just for Belmont Abbey and Wheaton, but for all religious non-profits challenging the mandate,” said Duncan. “The government has now been forced to promise that it will never enforce the current mandate against religious employers like Wheaton and Belmont Abbey and a federal appellate court will hold the government to its word.”