President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office have been an all-out war on women. Despite statements he has made about supporting women and “invest[ing] in women’s health,” he has ushered forth an agenda that will go down in history as one of the most egregious efforts in decades to deny women’s fundamental rights. As we approach the first Mother’s Day with Trump as president, let’s take a deeper look at how his anti-woman policies could have a particularly harmful effect on mothers.
Trump has rolled back progress on ensuring access to women’s health care here at home
A central component of House Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, has been to roll back access to affordable women’s health care. Shortly after the ACA’s implementation, the uninsurance rate among mothers fell from 17.4 percent to 13.6 percent. The decline was even greater for mothers living in Medicaid expansion states. The American Health Care Act, or AHCA, is putting that progress at risk. The AHCA has been described as “the worst bill for women’s health in a generation.” It would deny Medicaid enrollees access to trusted front-line health care provider Planned Parenthood; cut Medicaid by $880 billion; allow states to impose work requirements for many new mothers who receive Medicaid; restrict private insurance coverage of abortion; spike insurance premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, 51 percent of whom are women; and put services such as pregnancy and maternal care, newborn care, and pediatric services at risk of being dropped from insurance plans. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the AHCA would cause 24 million Americans to lose health insurance coverage by 2026.
President Trump and anti-choice members of Congress also moved to withhold access to the basic health care and preventive services available through the Title X Family Planning Program. After Vice President Mike Pence issued the tie-breaking vote on a Senate bill to roll back Obama-era protections for Title X providers, Trump signed it into law. Now states can withhold Title X grants to providers such as Planned Parenthood health centers if they offer abortion services with separate, nonfederal funding.
Title X providers play a pivotal role in ensuring that underserved women and families have access to health care. Often, they are the only health care source for families in need. Not only do these health centers offer nonjudgmental, patient-centered contraceptive services and counseling regardless of ability to pay, they also meet basic health needs by offering services that include diabetes screenings, breast and cervical cancer screenings, health literacy and education services, and much more. Title X clinics serve as a lifeline for women, immigrants, low-income people, and the uninsured. In 2015, 4 million people—half of whom were women of color—received care from these providers. When mothers can access affordable health services, they are better able to lead healthy lives, support their families, and thrive economically.
Trump signed a religious liberty executive order that puts women’s health in danger
Just last week, President Trump signed an executive order directing the secretaries of health and human services, treasury, and labor to consider issuing regulations that would allow organizations to deny women health insurance coverage for preventive care. The directive could spark the refusal of vital health services such as contraception, breastfeeding support, HIV/AIDS testing, and screening and counseling for survivors of violence—all on the basis of religious or moral objection. The executive order endangers the health and well-being of the 55 million women who have been able to attain access to no-cost preventive care under the ACA. It also sets the tone for enforcement of the Johnson Amendment and gives unprecedented authority to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions—an extremist with a history of supporting the discrimination of LGBT people, people of color, and women—to define religious liberty under the Trump administration.
Trump has endangered women overseas by expanding the Global Gag Rule and defunding UNFPA
One of President Trump’s first executive actions was to reinstitute the Global Gag Rule. Used as a political football since President Ronald Reagan signed it in 1984, this decades-old policy prohibits U.S.-funded organizations from offering any abortion-related care and information, as well as from advocating for the legalization of abortion in the countries in which they work. The organizations cannot even use non-U.S. funding to support abortion. To make matters much worse, Trump expanded the restriction to all U.S. global health funding. Previously, the Global Gag Rule only applied to U.S. international family planning funds.
The expansion will put millions of women, many of whom are mothers, at risk for unplanned pregnancy, maternal mortality and morbidity, and unsafe abortion. Application of the policy could also spark increases in the transmission of malaria, HIV, Ebola, Zika, and other infectious diseases, which can be particularly harmful for pregnant women. Furthermore, it could be a death sentence for women and infants living in resource-poor countries. Research has shown that the Global Gag Rule does nothing to reduce the need for abortion. It only serves to limit access to vital women’s health care, and the burden falls hardest on women in the world’s poorest countries.
The Trump administration has also invoked the Kemp-Kasten Amendment as the basis for eliminating the U.S. contribution to the United Nations Population Fund, or UNFPA. UNFPA is a U.N. agency working in the developing world to support maternal and child health care, HIV/AIDS treatment, services for survivors of violence in emergency settings, family planning services, and other reproductive health care for women and young people. UNFPA does its work in more than 150 countries, prioritizing care for poor communities where women are at increased risk for a host of health and societal ills, including gender inequality, pregnancy complications, and sexual violence. The fiscal year 2017 budget and appropriations process allocated $32.5 million for UNFPA. In April, the State Department announced that the U.S. government would strip the organization of this funding.
Trump’s harmful policy agenda does not end with health care
President Trump’s extremist, harmful policies do not end with denying women and families access to health care. He has also issued a budget proposal that cuts funding for programs serving low-income families; separated families through anti-immigrant policies; appointed a number of anti-choice individuals to run the government and serve in the courts; and promoted a child care plan with only wealthy families in mind. All of this, in just more than 100 days.
But there is still hope for mothers working to raise their children and support their families. Women are important players in the resistance movement globally. Whether it is through marching, working in policy institutions, or persisting on the floors of Congress, they are fighting at every turn to protect progress and ensure that communities are healthy and thriving.
Jamila K. Taylor is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.
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Senior Fellow; Director, Women’s Health and Rights