Who is Neomi Rao?
The Trump-Pence administration has issued policy after policy to undermine sexual and reproductive health care and rights. That includes a proposed "gag rule," which would stop doctors in the nation’s family planning program from telling patients about how and where to access abortion — and Administrator Neomi Rao is playing a role in pushing it through.
At the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Rao oversees the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Her office is responsible for reviewing all rules issued by the administration. The problem: Like fellow Trump-appointed administrators, Rao has longstanding, backward views that threaten to undermine our sexual health and reproductive rights. President Trump tapped Rao to be the administrator of this office because he wanted a "deregulatory czar" to cut down on government regulations — except when it comes to abortion.
President Trump recently nominated Rao to replace Brett Kavanaugh on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. This lifetime position will give Rao continued power over people’s health and lives. What’s more, the D.C. Circuit Court is one of the most powerful courts in the United States (after the Supreme Court). The D.C. Circuit Court hears many cases involving the administration’s rules and regulations. If confirmed, Rao would be in the position of deciding whether to uphold the very same rules she approved as an administrator — and at her confirmation hearing, Rao refused to say if she’d recuse herself from hearing those cases.
Rao's job at the OMB is to oversee the review of regulations from government agencies. She’s supposed to make sure the regulations comply with the law — and send them back for changes when they don’t. But she has played a role in advancing the Trump administration's agenda by pushing through numerous regulations that undermine our rights and protections, and she has the power to quickly move harmful rules through the process.New York Times: "Neomi Rao, the Scholar Who Will Help Lead Trump’s Regulatory Overhaul"
Under Rao, OMB approved a proposed version of the gag rule and will review a final version in the near future. The gag rule would radically change Title X, the one federal program meant to ensure that people with low incomes have access to affordable reproductive care, including birth control, STD testing, and breast and cervical cancer screenings.Tracking Trump: About the Gag Rule
Although she has tried to distance herself from her earlier writings on sexual assault, Rao has a record of victim-blaming. In the 1990s, she inaccurately wrote that the upside to women’s oppression was that it historically came with chivalry and protections from rape. According to Rao, modern freedoms mean women should be responsible for staying out of situations — like social drinking — that could lead to rape. She explained that if a woman "drinks to the point where she can no longer choose [to consent], well, getting to that point was part of her choice."Buzzfeed: "Trump’s DC Circuit Nominee — And Reported Supreme Court Contender — Wrote Inflammatory Op-Eds In College"
The plurality opinion in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey... minimized the competing inherent dignity of the fetus to life.”
George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper (2011)
While she was a student, Rao described reactions to campus sexual assault as "hysteria over date rape." She wrote that date rapes occur because "casual sex for women often leads to regret." She called on women to "accept responsibility for their sexuality" and not blame rapists for misunderstanding women’s "subtle glances, ambiguous words."Glamour: "Neomi Rao's Thoughts on Rape Are Sparking Major Controversy"
Despite evidence to the contrary, Rao said Yale classrooms didn’t have any gender discrimination. Her reasoning was laced with racism: She said discrimination against female students didn’t exist because the school followed a meritocracy that "drops its standards only for a few minorities, some legacies and a football player here and there." In that same time period, she wrote that she believed affirmative action was the "anointed dragon of liberal excess."USA Today: "Trump Pick to Replace Kavanaugh on Appeals Court Under Fire for College Op-Eds on 'Hysteria Over Date Rape"
Like many Trump-appointed judges (including Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh), Rao is a Federalist Society member. The Federalist Society leadership is dedicated to overturning Roe v. Wade — the Supreme Court case that affirmed the constitutional right to abortion.Huffington Post: "Trump Isn’t Remaking The Supreme Court. Leonard Leo Is."
The U.S. Office of Management and Budget