WASHINGTON ― A hundred days after an unprecedented number of women around the world marched to protest President Donald Trump, 31 U.S. senators penned a letter asking him to cease his “despicable attacks” on women’s health and women’s rights.
“Fears of attacks on women’s health and the fundamental rights so many women value led to this historic march,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) wrote Tuesday in the letter, which was co-signed by 29 other Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “Sadly, just 100 days into your administration, many of those fears have already become reality. We ask that you listen to the millions of people who have urged you to support women’s rights and cease these despicable attacks.”
The senators listed eight major ways Trump’s administration has hurt or tried to hurt women’s health in America and around the globe.
Already, Trump has signed a bill allowing states to withhold Title X federal family planning money from Planned Parenthood, hampering the provider’s ability to administer contraception and other preventative health care to more than a million low-income women. He reinstated the so-called global gag rule, blocking money to international health and family planning organizations that even mention abortion, and defunded the United Nations Population Fund, a group that has helped prevent roughly 10,000 maternal deaths and 100,000 unsafe abortions worldwide.
Trump is also trying to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with a law that would defund Planned Parenthood and gut maternity coverage. His pick for the Supreme Court was the conservative Neil Gorsuch, who has ruled against universal birth control coverage and Planned Parenthood in the past and would likely vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. And he is stacking the Department of Health and Human Services with anti-abortion activists who believe “contraception doesn’t work.”
“You ran on the idea of promoting economic security for Americans,” the senators told Trump in Tuesday’s letter. “Your actions to erode reproductive rights completely undermine that promise as reproductive rights are a key part of economic security for women and their families. The ongoing threat your administration poses to reproductive rights and economic security has motivated women and men nationwide.”
Read the full letter below:
The Honorable Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
On Saturday, January 21, 2017, women, men, and families across this country and around the globe marched for fairness and equity for all people in historic numbers. Fears of attacks on women’s health and the fundamental rights so many women value led to this historic march. Sadly, just 100 days into your administration, many of those fears have already become reality. We ask that you listen to the millions of people who have urged you to support women’s rights and cease these despicable attacks.
During the relatively short time since your inauguration, women and their families have been under a constant and unprecedented attack. While women have succeeded in fighting back against key aspects of your agenda thus far, there is no question that your leadership threatens to roll back decades of progress on women’s health and rights, as you have taken even standard Republican policies to a new and devastating extreme. As Members of Congress committed to advancing health and economic security, we find it especially unacceptable that your administration has prioritized the following actions:
● “Defunding” Planned Parenthood: Even though you have acknowledged the critical role of Planned Parenthood health centers in providing access to basic health care, your administration has caved to the most extreme anti-women’s health special interests by supporting “defunding” Planned Parenthood. While your Administration’s recent efforts to defund Planned Parenthood within the disastrous Trumpcare legislation failed, should you succeed, countless women who rely on Medicaid will be blocked from seeking health care from the provider of their choice, which is often the only safety net provider available where they live.
● Repealing the Affordable Care Act: Your administration continues to support repeated attempts to advance the Trumpcare bill, or the American Health Care Act (AHCA). This legislation would devastate our health system and rip coverage away from 24 million people. Those lucky enough to maintain coverage would be forced to pay more for less, as premiums and deductibles climb while benefits decline. The most recent version of AHCA includes provisions that would harm women and their families by gutting maternity care and allowing insurers to charge more for plans that include services women rely on.
● Global Gag Rule: Your administration reinstated and dramatically expanded a version of the harmful global gag rule, targeting non-U.S. organizations that work on any U.S.-funded global health program, including HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, maternal and child health, and Zika programs. These groups are now banned from all global health funding from the U.S. government if they also happen to provide counseling, referrals, or services for safe and legal abortion – even with their own funding. This historic action will be catastrophic for communities abroad, especially those relying on U.S. funding to address HIV/AIDS, maternal health care, and the fight against Zika, which also protects women and families here at home.
● Eliminating U.S. Funding to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA): Your administration followed up on the devastating impact of the widening of the global gag rule by eliminating all U.S. funding to UNFPA, one of the most wide-reaching and vital sources of contraceptive and child and maternal health services in the world. UNFPA works in more than 150 countries to facilitate safe births, protect girls from child marriage and female genital mutilation, and provide access to voluntary contraception for women and men. In more than 100 of these countries, USAID does not operate a family planning program, rendering UNFPA’s presence even more crucial. UNFPA operates internationally in refugee camps to combat maternal mortality by providing critical health services that are otherwise unavailable to women and their infant children.
● Appointments that Jeopardize Women’s Health: The recent confirmation of your Attorney General and Secretary of Health and Human Services are the most high-profile examples of you working to stock the government with anti-choice voices committed to rolling back the protections women have fought hard for over recent decades. With a historically high amount of vacancies still persistent across the government, we fear that additional appointments will be made that could further erode women’s health and rights.
● Nominating a Supreme Court Justice who has harmed women’s health: You repeatedly promised to nominate someone to the U.S. Supreme Court who would support overturning Roe v. Wade. Throughout the confirmation process, there was no indication that now-Justice Neil Gorsuch failed to meet that promise. Throughout his judicial career, Justice Gorsuch has demonstrated he does not prioritize the rights of women to make their own choices or have access to the care they need. Justice Gorsuch didn’t just agree with the Tenth Circuit’s ruling in the case of Hobby Lobby v. Burwell—he thought the ruling should have gone further. His confirmation—achievable only after your allies in the Senate changed longstanding rules to put him on the bench with only a majority, party-line vote—comes at a time when 70 percent of Americans support a woman’s constitutionally-protected right to choose.
● Attacks on Title X Family Planning Providers: You signed a resolution behind closed doors that eliminated important protections in Title X, the nation’s family planning program, after Vice President Pence was brought in to cast two tiebreaking votes to advance this harmful legislation in the Senate. The protections you eliminated clarified that health centers could not be prohibited from serving people under Title X for arbitrary or politically-motivated reasons that are unrelated to their ability to provide high-quality care. This resolution threatens access to birth control for four million people who depend on Title X.
● Budget Priorities: Though we have not yet seen your full budget priorities for fiscal year (FY) 2018, your proposal for the remainder of FY 2017 would gut the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, a cost effective sex education program for young people that has been proven to reduce sexual risk behaviors and has helped reduce teen pregnancy to a national historic low. In yet another clear sign that your administration de-prioritizes the promotion of women and girls, it has also been reported that your FY18 budget will not only eliminate the ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues at the State Department, but will also completely eliminate funding for the Office of Global Women’s Issues.
You ran on the idea of promoting economic security for Americans. Your actions to erode reproductive rights completely undermine that promise as reproductive rights are a key part of economic security for women and their families. The ongoing threat your administration poses to reproductive rights and economic security has motivated women and men nationwide. People across the country are turning out in record numbers at town halls, calling their members of Congress, and engaging in the legislative process like never before. Your administration can no longer ignore this groundswell. It should instead begin to listen to the voices of communities nationwide.
If your administration began to listen to the people it represents, you would reverse your harmful agenda and start to prioritize women’s access to health care, employment opportunities, and education domestically and around the world. We call on your Administration to do just that, and put the lives of women and working families ahead of ideological and partisan attacks.