Global Women–Targeted but Rising

An estimated 4.5 million people worldwide sailed through the streets worldwide for the Women’s March, protesting the inauguration of Donald Trump. The president’s war on women (coincidentally?) began immediately:

 Slashing Global Aid:  Major decreases in international aid for programs supporting reproductive rights, healthcare and wellbeing will severely impact women worldwide.

  • Global Gag Rule: Just two days later, President Trump instituted the “global gag rule” (also ironically called the “Mexico City Policy”), which cuts off funding for health groups that promote, refers patients to, or advocate abortion, even if they are not using U.S. Government funding to do so. The gag rule “crippled family planning programmes” and potentially increased abortions when it was last in effect during the George W. Bush administration (The Lancet). Trump’s gag rule greatly expands the scope of government programs subject to the restriction.
  • Severe Development and Diplomacy Budget Cuts: The Trump administration’s proposed fiscal year 2018 “skinny budget” also slashes diplomacy and development budgets by over 30 percent and could include an end to a 2012 policy on Gender Equality and Female Empowerment (GEFE) that requires all projects to have a gender integration plan.
  • Sought to End Funding for “Let Girls Learn”: The administration planned to end funding for Michelle Obama’s “Let Girls Learn” initiative aimed at breaking down the barriers keeping 62 million girls out of school for fewer early marriages, and better health and economic prospects. They subsequently stepped back from that unpopular position.
  • Cuts for United Nations Population Fund: In addition, the administration seeks to cut off funding for the United Nations Population Fund that does not provide abortions but has prevented 35 million unintended pregnancies in just three years and millions more devastating injuries, infections, and death. This policy has been described as “misogyny” (The Lancet) and “pro-death” (Nicholas Kristoff, New York Times).
  • Massive Cuts to U.N. Funding:S cuts to United Nations funding (50 percent by one estimate) severely damage the international humanitarian system and especially punish of women, who suffer more in war.

Attempts to Silence U.S. Women Leaders:  Domestically, the attempt to exclude and silence women has been notable, even for an administration never expected to champion equality or human rights.

  • Senator Elizabeth Warren was chastised by Senator Mitch McConnell for reading Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter criticizing Jeff Sessions’ work to disenfranchise black voters. “She persisted,” Senator McConnell sermonized, “justifying” his silencing of a fellow Senator, yet producing a powerful and inspiring meme.
  • Protester Desiree Fairooz is being prosecuted for laughing during the January confirmation hearing of Jeff Sessions at Senator Richard Shelby’s assertion that Sessions “has [treated] all Americans equally under the law.”
  • Senator McConnell formed a working group of 13 white men to shape the Senate’s health care bill (after the passage of a ACHA by the House which harms mothers and babies and cuts Medicare critical to elderly women.)
  • Acting Attorney General Sally Yates was fired for refusing to implement the Muslim ban (called as much on a Trump campaign website until early May). Yates’s recent powerful and deeply illuminating testimony before the Senate, though, may have provided key momentum on the Trump-Russia scandal.

 Removing Reproductive Rights:  The Republicans have launched an all-out assault on reproductive rights. They signed into law a provision to keep patients using Title X funds—devoted to providing comprehensive family planning—from using the organization that is often the best family planning provider: Planned Parenthood. In fact, in 1/5 of the counties in which it operates, it is the only provider. That law would prevent about 1.3 million patients from using Planned Parenthood services. Additionally, the American Healthcare Act passed by the House of Representatives, if passed in its current form, would take away most of Planned Parenthood’s federal funding.

In states, the effect is arguably worse, with over 1000 measures introduced to restrict reproductive health being introduced in 2017 ALONE. Fetal burial laws, anti-scientific counseling, and personhood measures are being advanced. Thirty states are reintroducing targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) legislation, despite a Supreme Court case just last year that ruled against that approach.  These initiatives may be introduced in preparation for a Roe vs. Wade challenge, as a direct overturn in the near future is unlikely. The appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court bodes poorly; chipping away at a woman’s right to choose is more likely now.

Women Battle Back: Notably, though women are stepping up, with more than 11,000   interested in running for office and continuing activism, particularly after the rousing Women’s March, to defend our human, economic, and environmental rights.  Women’s rights are human rights, and we must conduct a war on the Trump Administration’s war on women.

Veena Trehan, Chair
Global Women Task Force






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