By Alexis Cheney – @akcheney
In the first month of Donald Trump’s presidency, the ground has seemed to shake. Trump’s administration has smashed our civil and human rights to the ground, attempting to take women’s reproductive rights backwards instead of forwards. Let’s take a look at just how:
Memorandum Regarding the Mexico City Policy and Assistance for Voluntary Population Planning, A.K.A the Global Gag Rule
What it Does: In January, President Trump issued the above memorandum, requiring foreign non-governmental organizations not to use any of the donations they receive from the U.S. or non-U.S. sources to fund abortion as a method of family planning. The executive order shuttles the U.S. back in time, revoking Obama’s 2009 Mexico City Policy for Voluntary Population Planning and reinstates George W. Bush’s 2001 Mexico City Policy.
Implication: Ironically, countries whose NGOs receive less funding as a result of the policy experience an increase in abortion rates. Why? Because NGOs which educate about abortions also provide contraceptive devices. When those same NGOs receive less funding from the U.S., they cannot distribute contraceptive devices to those who need them.
“Pro-life” representatives currently outnumber pro-choice representatives in both the U.S. House and Senate.* In effect, several representatives in the House have introduced bills which reduce federal funding for abortion, regardless of the fact that federal dollars already do not pay for abortion except in special cases under the Hyde Amendment. Fortunately, however, these bills have a small chance of becoming law. Here are a few such bills:
What it does: The bill would ban federal funding for abortions in addition to preventing tax credits or federal subsidies for health care plans that include abortion coverage. It would also prevent abortions at facilities or locations that the federal government owns or operates.
Implication: H.R. 7 would make the Hyde Amendment, an element of the budget that bans U.S. federal funding on abortion, a permanent law. Congress has passed it every year since its inception in 1976, denying low-income women and women who receive healthcare from the federal government access to abortion.
Status: The bill passed in the House on January 24, 2017 and will go to the Senate for consideration. According to PredictGov, the bill has a 14 percent chance of being enacted.
What it does: As the title suggests, the bill would halt the stream of federal funding to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. for one year.
Implications: Not only does Planned Parenthood provide access to abortion, it also provides essential health care like cancer screenings and family planning. Cutting off funding entirely would prevent many women from accessing essential preventative health care. For some, the bill would mean the difference between life and death.
Status: Republican Representative Diane Black of Tennessee’s 6th congressional district assigned the bill to the House Energy and Commerce Committee on January 6, 2017. The Committee has not yet reported the bill.
What You Can Do
Call your representatives and Senators! Advocate for the use of federal funding to support organizations which educate women about abortion and family planning methods. Communicate the importance of federal healthcare programs which fund contraception and – as a last resort – abortions for the sake of maintaining the economic, social and emotional health of an individual or a family.
*N.B: For those of us who spaced out in 5th grade history class:
The Senate has 100 members – two senators from each of the 50 states, who serve six-year, overlapping terms. There are currently 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats and two Independents. The Vice President, Mike Pence, also serves as the President of the Senate and as a tie-breaking vote. .
The House of Representatives consists of no more than 435 representatives of each state. States elect a certain number of representatives based on their population. Currently there are 238 Republican representatives and 193 Democratic representatives with terms limited to two years. The Speaker of the House is Paul Ryan.