Demonstrators arrive at Union Station for the Women's March on Washington on Jan. 21, 2017, in Washington, DC. Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images
Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images

Following women’s marches, Republicans target reproductive rights

Updated
The day after millions of people participated in women’s marches, in one of the most impressive displays of American activism in recent memory, Kellyanne Conway was dismissive of the entire endeavor.

“We certainly respect people’s First Amendment rights,” the White House counselor to Donald Trump said. “But I frankly didn’t see the point.”

 
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And while event organizers and participants are perfectly capable of explaining “the point” to Conway, it seems fair to say the events were part of a backlash to a far-right agenda targeting women’s rights and interests. In fact, as Slate’s Michelle Goldberg explained yesterday, “the point” of the events seemed even clearer two days later.
On Monday morning, Donald Trump, surrounded by a group of smiling white men, signed an executive order banning foreign nongovernmental organizations that receive certain kinds of American aid from counseling health clients about abortion or advocating for abortion law liberalization. Supporters of international reproductive rights were disappointed but not surprised. Ronald Reagan first issued the so-called Mexico City policy in 1984, stripping U.S. family planning funds from groups involved with abortion, and ever since, every Republican president has reinstated it.

By Monday’s end, however, people who work on global reproductive health and rights were reeling. Trump, it eventually emerged, hadn’t simply revived the so-called global gag rule. Quietly, with so little publicity that activists weren’t aware until someone saw the new language in a tweeted image, Trump had massively expanded the rule. Suzanne Ehlers, president and CEO of the global reproductive health organization PAI, says it’s the global gag rule “on steroids.”
Mark Leon Goldberg explained that the original Global Gag Rule targeted funding that went to non-governmental organizations that work on family planning and reproductive health. As designed, the gag rule prevented these groups from even mentioning to women that abortion exists as a possible option.

Trump’s gag rule works the same way, but it applies to a much bigger pot of money. The U.N. Dispatch piece said, “Rather than applying the Global Gag Rule exclusively to US assistance for family planning in the developing world, which amounts to about $575 million per year, the Trump memo applies it to ‘global health assistance furnished by all department or agencies.’ In other words, NGOs that distribute bed nets for malaria, provide childhood vaccines, support early childhood nutrition and brain development, run HIV programs, fight ebola or Zika, and much more, must now certify their compliance with the Global Gag Rule or risk losing US funds. According to analysis from PAI, a global health NGO, this impacts over $9 billion of US funds, or about 15 times more than the previous iteration of the Global Gag Rule which only impacted reproductive health assistance.”

Attempting to defend the move, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters this week that the new gag rule will “end the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortions overseas, along with coercive abortion and sterilization practices.” I have no idea if Spicer was lying or simply ignorant, but either, his defense is completely at odds with the facts.

What’s more, the day after Trump imposed his expanded Global Gag Rule, House Republicans voted to “permanently ban US women, too, from receiving any federal financial assistance for abortion – whether they are insured through public programs like Medicaid or if they purchase private health insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchanges.”

Consider a brief timeline of events:

Saturday: Millions of people marched in support of women’s rights.

Sunday: Officials from the Trump White House dismiss the significance of the events.

Monday: Trump imposes the most severe Global Gag rule in history, undermining public health programs that benefit women around the world.

Tuesday: House Republicans voted to make the Hyde Amendment permanent.

In other words, conservative lawmakers saw the marches and rallies, and decided to both ignore the activism and do the exact opposite of what attendees demanded.


Donald Trump, Reproductive Rights and War On Women

Following women's marches, Republicans target reproductive rights

Updated