Donald Trump has been president for roughly a week, and already we are seeing drastic changes for women ... for the worse. Yes, we expected him to try to use his power to restrict women's rights (especially as they concern our bodies and our choices). But the degree to which he has targeted women -- after millions marched around the world the day after his inauguration to tell him that, yes, our rights matter -- is downright chilling.
Chilling, but perhaps unsurprising because of Trump's long and checkered reported history of misogyny, from flippantly talking about sexual assault to indulging in all manners of derogatory speech. Now his actions are creating a nightmarish reality which seems to prove that Trump truly doesn't care about women; in fact, it seems like he flat-out hates them.
How else are we supposed to interpret actions like these?
1. He signed an executive action setting the stage for a rollback of the Affordable Care Act.
While a repeal of Obamacare would dramatically affect many, many Americans, women would be left particularly at risk: Not only did the ACA force insurance companies to charge men and women the same rates for the same coverage, but it also made it illegal to consider pregnancy a preexisting condition and made it mandatory for insurance companies to provide free birth control and access to maternity and newborn care. Mothers were also provided with free breast pumps, a necessity for many working moms. All of those provisions could soon disappear.
And this is only the backdrop for laws that want to erode women's health rights. In fact, on Tuesday afternoon, House Republicans voted to permanently ban women from receiving any federal financial assistance for abortion. It's important to note that there's already a ban on federal tax dollars' being used to fund abortions (except in the cases of rape, incest, or danger for the mother's life) through the Hyde Amendment; however, this new bill would codify that into law and could mean that women who receive their health insurance through the government (including Affordable Care Act exchanges) might not be able to find plans that cover abortion.
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2. He reinstated the "global gag rule" on abortion.
Established by Ronald Reagan in 1984, this policy not only denies federal funds and foreign aid to organizations around the world that provide abortions, but it also targets organizations that "promote" abortions (by offering referrals, education, etc.). And Trump's version is even more extreme than the original: Under the previous rule, these restrictions only applied to NGOs' receiving US family planning funding; now, they will affect all global health funding (meaning those organizations dealing with maternal/child health, AIDS, and malaria are also banned from having any association with abortion whatsoever).
Interestingly, there is no evidence that the global gag rule actually reduces abortion; on the contrary, the gag rule will take away access to birth control for over 225 million women -- which, it stands to reason, would result in more abortions -- and increase pregnancy-related deaths by approximately 289,000.
3. It's rumored that he'll slash funding from government-funded programs that prevent violence against women.
All 25 of the grant programs managed by the Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women could be eliminated, according to The Hill. These programs currently fund organizations for the prevention of sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence, and elder abuse -- as well as those that offer aid to survivors who need help getting back on their feet and provide survivors of violence with resources including housing and legal assistance. In a statement, interim executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum Sung Yeon Choimorrow said:
Eliminating the Violence Against Women Grants is a clear and direct attack on women. This move would particularly harm Asian American and Pacific Islander women and other women of color, as well as immigrant and LGBTQ communities. These women experience disproportionate rates of violence, and they face discrimination when when they seek support services following violent experiences.
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4. He's appointed congressman Tom Price to be secretary of Health and Human Services.
Called a "grave threat to women's health" by Planned Parenthood, orthopedic surgeon Price opposed the Affordable Care Act provision that made birth control available without a co-pay, telling a Think Progress reporter in 2012:
"Bring me one woman who has been left behind. Bring me one. There's not one. The fact of the matter is this is a trampling on religious freedom and religious liberty in this country."
The Senate still needs to vote on his confirmation.
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5. He's also appointed conservative billionaire Betsy DeVos as education secretary.
While not a direct attack on women per se, putting Betsy DeVos in the position of overseeing our children's education would potentially harm families in a number of ways. Not only does DeVos have no government experience, but she also never sent her own children to public schools (or attended one herself); she has instead donated millions to politicians supporting vouchers that give money to charter schools and religious schools, diverting funds from traditional public education.
Her confirmation hearing (a Senate committee vote is scheduled for January 31) proved that her knowledge of basic education policy is shockingly limited; she has also said that she wants to "advance God's kingdom" through school reform (separation of church and state, anyone?). And please, please don't get us started on her comment about guns in schools serving the purpose of keeping away grizzly bears.
6. And, of course, he's promised to appoint a Supreme Court justice who is against abortion.
One of the Supreme Court's nine seats has been vacant since the death of justice Antonin Scalia in 2016, and while there was hope during Obama's presidency that the seat might be filled by moderate appeals court judge Merrick Garland, Republicans refused to even give him a confirmation hearing -- leaving Trump to fill the spot.
Because the Supreme Court oversees federal constitutional law having to do with abortion, gun rights, and same-sex marriage, Trump's choice could have devastating consequences on the health and well-being of women for years to come (justices can serve for their entire lives; there are no set term limits). And the administration has already solidified its decidedly anti-choice stance with Trump's praising the January 27 March for Life in Washington, DC, sending Mike Pence to speak as the first president or vice president to do so in the march's 44 years.
It's hard not to see these actions as direct attacks on women. While some were expected, the global gag rule expansion apparently came without warning after the Women's March, which reportedly "visibly enraged" Trump. Could putting the lives of thousands of women at risk be the president's version of payback? After all, this is the man who once said that women should be punished for having abortions. Now, it seems, his twisted vision is terrifyingly close to becoming a reality.