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The Governor is Attempting to fill the DHHS with Anti-Abortion Crusaders

The state public health department is being overtaken for political reasons in yet another effort by the governor to attack family planning and public health in general. And in true NEGOP fashion, this clumsy takeover is being attempted with poor grammar, bad spelling, and plain old nonsensical ramblings..

A global pandemic placed public health in the spotlight for the last several months, but prior to Covid-19, public health funding had been cut and programming had been attacked for decades. In particular, Nebraska Title X (family planning) funding has been attacked from the right on several occasions to varying degrees of “success” by Ricketts-funded groups like the fanatical misogynist Catholic anti-gay hate group the Nebraska Family Alliance.

Over the last six months, public health staff have been stretched beyond their capacity to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic and to protect the health and lives of fellow Nebraskans. 

The efforts by the DHHS to serve all Nebraskans have been interrupted incessantly. Whether it was the no-bid contract for TestNebraska without upfront clear data sharing structure back to DHHS to complete contact tracing, lack of support and even overt hostility from the governor on implementation of community safety measures (half-assed, unenforced DHMs, no statewide stay-at-home order, and no statewide mask mandate), complete disregard for public health expertise, or any of the other anti-science efforts that have occurred, one thing is certain: ensuring the public’s health in Nebraska is a lot harder than it should be simply due to lack of leadership

DHHS Division of Public Health is now undergoing an organizational restructuring. It is something that probably needed to occur years ago due to the ever-evolving role of public health, however, it seems to be turning into yet another attempt for conservative political gain at the expense of the health of particularly vulnerable Nebraskans. 

One of the new positions created, the “Public Health Director of Operations”, was publicly posted a few days ago. Hidden in plain sight amongst the standard director-level jargon you’d expect to read for a job description of this kind—albeit with enough spelling and grammar mistakes to make you wonder if it was written by one of the brainwashed kindergartners at St. Teresa’s—there is a highly concerning “example of work”. It reads: “Ensure Public Health has a pro-family focus by developing and maintaining programs regarding fatherhood and pregnancy crisis, adoption programs, teen absence [sic] programs, and others [sic] issues related to family values”. 

Later in the job qualifications and requirements, again we see (with yet more spelling errors) “Experience developing and leading pro-family programs. Must understand team (sic) pregnancy and fatherhood issues.

Considering Nebraska’s teen pregnancy rate is smack dab in the middle of the pack when compared to other states, it seems strange for this to be called out so specifically when the rest of the job description includes standard-issue communication, management, and leadership skills.  Might this be a good thing? Is the Department attempting to ensure the chosen candidate is a strong believer in family planning, comprehensive sex education, universal contraception and abortion access? If you believe that, I have a log cabin inside a shed to sell you. 

With the sordid history of the Governor’s interference with state public health authority (and everything else), this is yet another way to formalize disdain for Nebraskan women and people with pregnancies, their rights, and their bodies. By ensuring the person chosen to lead the Division of Public Health is what Ricketts and his anti-abortion fanatics laughably call “pro-family”, we all know that actually means they’re looking for another fetus fetishist to install at the DHHS to do Ricketts’s bidding.