U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis announced key hires this week, including a legislative director who has written about the purported health dangers of using birth control.
Tillis said last year while campaigning for his Senate seat that contraceptives should be cheaper and made available over the counter.
Democrats and women’s health advocates shot back that doing so would make them less available because they would not be covered by insurance.
Tillis’ new legislative director, Katy French Talento, has been an epidemiologist as well as a prominent Senate staffer, and most recently worked for a company that provides malaria protection to energy workers in Africa and Asia.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
Last month, she wrote two articles on contraception for the conservative web magazine The Federalist, one with the summary: “Chemical birth control causes abortions and often has terrible side effects, including deliberate miscarriage.”
A second piece is headlined, “Ladies: Is Birth Control the Mother of All Medical Malpractice?” and it criticized candidates who, like Tillis, ran on “putting those dangerous, carcinogenic chemicals in the candy aisle at CVS.”
“Surely this would inoculate us against accusations of waging a ‘war on women,’” she wrote.
There are conflicting scientific findings about whether contraception is harmful in the way Talento describes.
Tills’ spokeswoman Meghan Burris responded Tuesday in an email.
“During the campaign, Sen. Tillis made it very clear where he stands on this issue,” she wrote. “While each and every North Carolinian holds their own views on issues, staffers ultimately work to pursue the legislative priorities and values of the elected officials they work for, regardless of their own personal beliefs.”
Update: Planned Parenthood North Carolina chapter spokeswoman Sarah Eldred commented late Tuesday by email.
“Birth control does not 'cause' abortion, birth control prevents the need for abortion, reducing unintended pregnancy and helping North Carolina women and families achieve economic success,” she said. “It is deeply troubling that Sen. Tillis has brought on someone who clearly does not understand how birth control works to be one of his closest advisors.”
Other appointments announced were:
• Robert Wilkie, senior adviser: He was assistant secretary of defense under Robert Gates and Donald Rumsfeld, served as special assistant to President George W. Bush for national security affairs and was senior director of the National Security Council under Condoleezza Rice. Currently a reserve Air Force officer, Wilkie is a native of Fayetteville.
• Courtney Temple, legislative assistant: She was director of governmental relations at the U.S. Travel Association, and has been a congressional staffer.
• Joe Nolan, legislative assistant: He was deputy chief of staff and senior education policy adviser for Tillis in the North Carolina House of Representatives. He graduated from N.C. State University.
• Luke Blanchat, special adviser: He was deputy campaign manager for Tillis last year. A Hickory native, he graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University.
• Chad Rhoades, legislative correspondent: He worked as counsel to a N.C. House judiciary committee, and was a legal research assistant for Tillis. A native of Clemmons, he graduated from NCSU.
“I’m excited to have a tremendously qualified legislative team that has expertise in a wide range of policy issues,” Tillis said in a statement. “Whether it is working on commonsense solutions that make Washington more accountable to hardworking taxpayers or promoting a more robust foreign policy that keeps our nation safe and secure, our legislative team will help play a critical role in advancing the priorities of North Carolina.”