The Elephant in the Womb Trampling Women’s Rights

Women have gone through the proverbial wringer of justified outrage over the past few weeks following the dreadful election and the dismal and clearly under-attended inauguration of Donald J. Drumpf (d/b/a Donald J. Trump). For many, this process unfolded in the following manner: A crushing period of sadness and disbelief, followed by a fierce inundation of anger, now followed by the burning desire and motivation to resist the uprooting of our gender’s political progress and fundamental rights along a temporal spectrum spanning decades. Among the most imminently threatened of these rights, women’s reproductive rights dance upon dangerously thin ice and may be scheduled to plummet into a resoundingly cold and watery political grave. By virtue of both aiding women’s resistance and contributing to the dissemination of non-alternative facts, the following outlines how the Trump Administration will impact women’s reproductive rights based on actions already taken, and those promised to be taken in the near future.

The Global Gag Rule.

When this happened just two days after record breaking Women’s Marches took place throughout the world, it felt almost retaliatory, and many women were understandably shocked and afraid. It was very common in the hours following the announcement of the gag rule to observe self-appointed experts shout that such shock and fear were unreasonable, as this rule does not prevent the performance of abortion nor does it depart from what is typical of the Republican modus operandi. This is true. The gag rule does not render abortion illegal, and it is a rule that has been implemented under Republican administrations since Reagan was in office. But this is also true: women throughout the world died because of this rule before, and they will also die, now, under Trump.

So, what is the gag rule? The gag rule bans U.S. funding for international healthcare organizations that either perform or advocate for the performance of abortions. Even mentioning abortions can result in these organizations losing their allotment of U.S. funds. It does not even matter if those organizations fund abortions with non-U.S. funds—the mere utterance of the word “abortion” will cost them the entirety of their U.S. subsidy. This means that (1) international healthcare organizations receiving U.S. funds will be unable to fully counsel patients on their healthcare options and (2) the number of unsafe abortions performed throughout the world will once again spike, as women will be forced to find methods for terminating pregnancies outside of safe and legal procedures.

Of further import, this particular gag rule is more expansive than the rules of past administrations—rather than just lifting family planning funds as is typically the case, Trump’s gag rule threatens to lift funds from all global health organizations should abortion be mentioned, offered, or performed by them. The result? A classic construction of economic incentives by which healthcare organizations throughout the world will be forced to sacrifice comprehensive care for women in order to safeguard the funds needed to provide healthcare outside of abortion. Thus, under this rule the number of abortions performed will not decrease, but the number of unsafe abortions performed will surely increase, as it has in the past under this rule. Marie Stopes International, one of the largest international healthcare organizations, estimates that during Trump’s first term as President, the world may see about 6.5 million unintended pregnancies, 2.2 million abortions, 2.1 million unsafe abortions, and 21,700 maternal deaths.

The Elimination of Planned Parenthood Subsidization.

Trump made it made it very clear back in September of 2016 in a letter to Anti-Choice Leaders (d/b/a Pro-Life Leaders) that he would defund Planned Parenthood if they continue to perform abortions, despite the well-known fact that abortions constitute a minute percentage of Planned Parenthood’s performed services. In fact, the lion’s share of their services goes toward providing women with a full range of women’s health services, including STD testing and treatment, PAP testing, mammograms, and HPV testing and treatment, among a banquet of other things. These services are all provided at no cost for women who lack health insurance. Despite knowing that Planned Parenthood provides all of these invaluable services, and acknowledging that millions of women are benefited by these services, in a February 2016 debate Trump made it abundantly clear that the abortion factor alone would be enough to defund the organization altogether. Thus, if this is a promise that will be kept, we can very reasonably expect that millions of uninsured women throughout the country will no longer have access to these, in many cases, life-saving services.

The Repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

In light of the big ticket campaign promise to repeal the ACA, many women will likely lose insurance coverage of not only their contraceptives, but of all other forms of “preventive care” as defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including mammograms and cervical cancer screenings. The first step toward Trump’s unraveling of the ACA in his executive capacity took place on January 20, 2017 with his overwhelmingly vague executive order asking “the Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary) and the heads of all other executive departments and agencies (agencies) with authorities and responsibilities under the Act” to minimize the economic burden of the ACA. It is unclear what that could possibly entail but, with a sweep that wide, the elimination of birth control coverage is definitely within its scope. As a result, women now covered by the ACA will be forced to either pay the exorbitant prices for birth control out of pocket, or sacrifice their reproductive health for the sake of their financial health.

The Overturning of Roe v. Wade.

From the onset of his campaign, Trump has highlighted his desire to overturn Roe v. Wade—a Supreme Court decision that has safeguarded the right to an abortion since 1973. As the presidential race progressed, Trump clearly became more fiercely pro-life, along with his Vice-President, who is actually on the record as having said that he wants to send Roe v. Wade to the “ash heap of history.” To achieve this, Trump plans to appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court bench to replace Antonin Scalia and possible other vacancies during his term. There really is not much else to say here. It is a possibility of astronomically tragic proportion that will rob women of a right that has been ours for over forty years.

Even if Roe v. Wade is not overturned, Trump plans to impact abortion rights otherwise through a bill that will ban abortions after twenty weeks of gestation. A similar bill was blocked by Democrats in the Senate in 2015, but such an obstacle does not seem to be an issue for the new president, as he now enjoys a majority Republican Senate. In fact, just this week the House passed an anti-abortion bill aiming to exclude the use of insurance for abortion coverage by cutting off taxpayer funding to insurance plans that cover abortion. Much like the gag rule, it creates an economic construction of incentives by which it is highly foreseeable that insurers, in order to retain their federal funding, will likely gut their abortion coverage. The bill will now go to the Senate for a vote but, if passed and signed into law by the president, it could present an insurmountable financial obstacle for women who need an abortion, but cannot afford one at cost.

This administration will not be an easy ride, and our fundamental rights, many directly related to our reproductive health, will be entirely up for grabs by largely male hands. The consequences of this will not only impact women domestically, but throughout the world, as is already the case. It is now more important than ever to be aware, resist, and, most importantly, plan ahead. Whether this means getting an IUD before it becomes prohibitively expensive to get birth control or coming up with initiatives or programs to assist underprivileged communities of women with retaining access to crucial reproductive healthcare, the next four years necessitate our involvement in a way that prior administrations have not. The first step to meaningful involvement? Simply understanding all of the different ways that this administration intends to have women, the world over, suffer.

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