There is no doubt that current United States President Donald Trump has faced endless backlash regarding his views on women extending beyond his announcement of his candidacy for president. Historical allegations of sexual assault and his statements objectifying the appearance of women, as seen in revealing Access Hollywood tapes released during his presidential campaign, have provided the world with a disheartening image of what a potential Trump administration would look like. It is easy to rely on these statements to paint him as an anti-woman president. But has the tone of these statements matched his early actions as president?
His reinstatement of the Mexico City policy and recurring threats to defund Planned Parenthood indicate one possible trajectory for the progress of women in the world, especially in America. However, with his plans to provide 6 months paid maternity leave to American women and his recent signing of two laws encouraging female participation in entrepreneurship and STEM fields, it is now time to reconsider the future of women under our new president.
Let us call into question what specific actions the Trump administration has supported or implemented that concern the future of women. In this article, I describe some of his most notable actions, ranging from a restrictive abortion policy to an outline of a child care policy, that should have a considerable impact on women in the world.
I would like to also emphasize that, although the handful of actions that I describe in this article are primarily directed towards women, they have effects on many other populations not addressed here. Similarly, actions in this article do not cover all actions performed under the Trump administration that affect women.
Mexico City Policy (Global Gag Rule)
The Mexico City Policy was originally introduced by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, with the direct purpose of preventing international NGOs from using US Funds to offer or advocate for abortion services. It has gone through a pattern of overturning and reinstitution through the years, recently ending with Obama’s overturning of this policy in 2009. On January 23rd, 2017 Trump ordered an official reinstitution of this policy. In contrast to more conservative sources describing the simple effects of this action as a revival of Reagan's original plan to eliminate access to abortions, numerous alternative platforms instead described this action as a significant expansion of the former president’s policy. As stated by Suzanne Ehlers, president and CEO of Population Action International, Trump’s expansion of this policy means that rather than affecting $600 million in U.S. foreign aid as seen the previous implementation of the rule, it will affect $9.5 billion. Additionally, many outlets reported that this extended policy would result in additional consequences separate from a lack of abortion accessibility, such as greater transmission of HIV/AIDS and commonality of child malnutrition. Similarly, as one report from Forbes describes, the Mexico City policy additionally restricts organizations from proper physician counseling referring of patients to alternative locations for necessary medical care. This means that effects of Trump’s version of the Mexico City policy could extend beyond the original scope of abortion access to the larger question of medical care. Per these effects, abortion activists have nicknamed the policy “the Global Gag Rule,” because it “prevents doctors from talking to their patients and providing services that are legal in their own countries - and in the US,” as described in a report by Planned Parenthood.
Concerns regarding this extended policy also focus on the idea that this policy is wrongly implemented in areas of the world that are in dire need of improved health services. As stated by an anonymous member of the Kenyan Government, “The Global Gag Rule does not make sense. It is not applied to the United States. Instead, it is applied to countries that are the poorest…that have the highest rates of maternal mortality.”
In contrast to the backlash surrounding this policy, one strong argument supporting this policy contends that the Mexico City policy serves as a method for eliminating the promotion of abortions in lieu of the promotion of proper birth control use; especially considering the lack of birth control access in areas like the Global South, this idea is important to consider.
Yet, many other groups consider Trump’s reinstituted Mexico City policy to ultimately be detrimental to communities around the world, and often felt hardest by women. Despite any potential benefits of this policy, it is ultimately limiting a service that women once had greater access to. As many women have historically benefitted from this service, Trump’s reinstitution of this policy can largely be seen as catering only to the needs of pro-life individuals in the US.
GOP Bill Defunding Planned Parenthood:
Similar backlash towards the Trump administration stems from the idea of defunding Planned Parenthood. In recent weeks, this concern has only escalated with the introduction of a GOP bill entitled The American Health Care Act.
The American Health Care Act was introduced by House Republicans on March 9th, 2017 to repeal and replace Obamacare. Some key components of its proposal include maintaining coverage for pre-existing conditions and allowing children to stay on a parent's plan until the age of 26. However, as a report from CNN describes, this bill “also includes a provision to strip all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which is something Republicans have vowed to do for years citing concerns over the use of taxpayer money for abortion services."
Specifically, this bill is said to block around $500 million in federal funding for the Planned Parenthood organization. Overall, this will likely have drastic effects on the 1.6 million Planned Parenthood users in the world, as stated by Cecile Richards, who is the current president of Planned Parenthood. The Congressional Budget Office estimates in an analysis that the passage of this bill will result in thousands of women on Medicaid having children they would not otherwise have had. This effect could bring many financial issues to the forefront, such as an additional $21 million being spent on Medicaid for pregnancies and births in 2017, which would ultimately offset the $178 million savings from not funding Planned Parenthood that year.
Today, Planned Parenthood is respected by many for its history of providing women around the world with a plethora of reproductive health services, including abortions. Trump, in fact, has publicly recognized the benefits of the organization. For instance, on the CNN debate stage in Houston, he stated that "Millions of millions of women — cervical cancer, breast cancer — are helped by Planned Parenthood.” Despite this, he also vowed to defund Planned Parenthood because of his pro-life beliefs. Subsequently, Trump has supported the bill’s cutbacks. Although he has made the proposal to Planned Parenthood to not cut back its funds in return for elimination of their abortion services being offered, the organization has declined.
There is no doubt that Trump has played a large role in garnering support for the American Health Care Act. Coupled with his tweets identifying this bill as a "wonderful new Healthcare Bill," Trump has been greatly involved in efforts to get it passed through personal meetings, largely with the House GOP. In addition, he is currently playing a large role advising House conservatives on improving this bill through passage. Currently, this bill is in its transition phase to being voted on in Congress. Although this bill has not yet been converted into law, many fear that it will result in a major blow to women’s healthcare, affecting individuals around the globe.
Now, let us look at two contributions that can be viewed as positively affecting women from Trump’s administration.
INSPIRE Women Act and Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act:
On February 28th, 2017, Trump signed into law two bills entitled the "Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act" and "Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act,” which were both introduced by women in Congress. The INSPIRE Women Act, introduced by Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., authorizes the head of NASA to support initiatives that will "encourage women and girls to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics and to pursue careers that will further advance America's space science and exploration efforts," according to a White House statement. Similarly, the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act, which was introduced by Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., is meant to keep female scientists in sci-tech careers by authorizing the National Science Foundation to help women to progress beyond the laboratory and into the commercial world with STEM careers.
While signing these two bills, Trump stated that "It's unacceptable that we have so many American women who have these degrees but yet are not being employed in these fields. So I think that's going to change, it's going to change very rapidly." Notably, reporting on Trump’s action was very limited, with only conservative outlets like Fox News placing a great emphasis on it. One might say that this indicates that the impact of these bills is not strong enough to bring substantial progress for women. Despite this, it is important to acknowledge the possibility that Trump’s signing of these two bills can serve as a possible indication that he is willing to place women’s issues high on his list of priorities.
Child Care Policy Outline
We can also note Trump’s outline of a child care policy, which many consider to have been influenced by Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump. In Aston, Pennsylvania on September 13th, 2016, Trump described some of the main components of this plan. "The first part of my child care plan allows for every parent or family in America including adoptive parents or foster parent guardians to deduct their child care expenses from their income taxes. That's a first. They will fully be able to deduct the average cost of child care for their state from birth through the age of thirteen,” he stated at the event. Similarly, he noted that his policy most importantly “also supports mothers who choose to stay at home and honors and recognizes their incredible contributions to their families and to our society."
Although his policy includes elements that would have a positive effect on women, such as allowing for affordable child care, it has faced criticism for holes within its provisions. For example, as stated in a report by the Washington Post, “A document on the Trump campaign's website states that same-sex couples would receive the six weeks of paid leave under the policy only if their marriage is ‘recognized under state law,’ language that could effectively bar any unmarried parent." These concerns ultimately raise the issue of benefits of this plan not reaching certain groups of women, which could dilute the promise of Trump’s policy outline.
Aside from these concerns, however, it is important to realize that this policy outline could indicate Trump’s support for maternity leave and affordable child care within his legislative agenda.
Ultimately, what these examples show is that one single focus is not dominating the actions of the Trump administration. In other words, it appears there are numerous different ways in which pieces of legislation and plans under Trump will affect women around the world. Indeed, Trump’s extension of Reagan’s Mexico City policy and introduction of a provision to defund Planned Parenthood bring a large level of concern of how much access women will have to needed health services under the administration. As many sources predict, it is likely that communities will be affected around the globe in terms of health and future well-being.
However, we must also take time to acknowledge the good things that have or will result from actions under Trump—like Trump’s child care policy or his signing of the INSPIRE and Entrepreneurship Acts. Only time will tell how these initiatives will play out, and if the Trump administration will act in ways to offset any concerns over the future of women.