WASHINGTON – Pro-lifers are applauding the Senate's confirmation this week of former pharmaceutical executive Alex Azar to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.
Azar will replace former HHS Secretary Tom Price, who resigned amid public scrutiny over his use of private jets at taxpayers' expense.
As leader of the HHS, Azar will have great influence over the provisions in Obamacare and the shaping of health policy in general – including abortion policy.
A week before Azar's confirmation, the HHS announced it was creating a new civil rights division to protect health care workers who do not want to be forced into providing contraception and other services that violate their religious or moral beliefs.
"Azar's commitment to HHS' mission 'to enhance the health and well-being of all Americans,' including unborn children and their mothers, is so encouraging," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.
"We are confident that he has the experience and enthusiasm to lead the way in implementing President Trump's pro-life priorities," she added.
Last year, Students for Life of America also applauded President Donald Trump's choice of Azar as the next HHS chief.
“Abortion is not health care, and in Obamacare, we’ve seen Americans coerced into the service of the abortion industry, through mandates and coverage that force people to comply with an anti-life agenda or face the force of law,” Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins said in November. “We hope that day one, Alex Azar begins to restore life-affirming care to our healthcare system, rather than abusing people’s consciences and wallets in service of Planned Parenthood and its allies.”
The 50-year-old Azar is an attorney by training, but spent the past decade working as a pharmaceutical executive with industry giant Eli Lilly.
In 2017, Azar broke from the company to start his own consulting firm and is seen as an expert on health care regulation.
He also has experience at HHS, working as the department's general counsel in the early 2000s before serving as a deputy secretary for two years.
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 55-43 to confirm Azar, with senators on both sides of the aisle releasing statements in favor of him.
"After careful consideration, I've decided to support President Trump's nomination of Alex Azar to serve as our next secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I have known Mr. Azar for several decades and have always been impressed with his intellect and work ethic," Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said in a statement. "I disagree with most of the Trump administration's health policies, but HHS needs a competent leader. Mr. Azar is prepared to be that."
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said, "Mr. Azar is respected by both Republicans and Democrats and has been unanimously confirmed twice before by the United States Senate. His knowledge and service at the Department of Health and Human Services makes him well qualified for this new role."
"I met with Mr. Azar to discuss my concerns over government transparency, responsible stewardship of taxpayer money and prescription drug prices," he continued. "During our meeting, he assured me that encouraging competition in the health care and pharmaceutical industries and stemming the tide of rising drug prices would be among his top priorities."
Azar will also play a leading role in the fight against opioid addiction and ways to constrain escalating drug prices.