By Kristen Jordan Shamus
Detroit Free Press
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Shilpa Phadke, the director of the Women’s Initiative at the Center for American Progress, says that the first 100 days of the Trump administration have been devastating for women’s equality.
Detroit Free Press
On the same day the U.S. dropped what’s being called the mother of all bombs on Afghanistan, President Donald Trump quietly signed a law Thursday that gives states the authority to halt federal funding of family planning services to Planned Parenthood and other clinics that provide abortions.
As bombs explode, laws are changed and diplomacy evaporates around the world, it’s difficult to keep up with the pace at which the Trump administration’s policies are rolled out. Yet advocates for women’s rights say now is the time to be vigilant.
Shilpa Phadke, the director of the Women’s Initiative at the Center for American Progress, said the first 100 days of the Trump administration have been devastating for women’s equality.
“It’s just a reminder that after repeated promises that President Trump would protect women and invest in women’s health, those words have really nothing behind them,” said Phadke.
“These actions are creating really damaging consequences for millions of women and really hurting vulnerable communities.
“He’s denying women access to family-planning services and lifesaving health care, and we shouldn’t be surprised. It’s been blow after blow, really.”
Kelly Dittmar, an assistant professor of political science at Rutgers University-Camden and scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics, said that though some of the news has been shocking to many women, Trump’s actions haven’t been surprising to political scientists who watched the campaign.
“Hillary Clinton said this throughout her campaign: ‘When somebody shows you who they are, believe them the first time,” Dittmar said. “It’s a continuance of a pattern of behavior of not prioritizing these issues and, in fact, promoting a brand of leadership and campaigning that was all about masculinity … and going so far as to promote a toxic masculinity that is deriding women.”
Here are five things women, on either side of the aisle, ought to know about the Trump administration’s first 100 days:
1. WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE
Trump revoked the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order in late March, which required wage transparency among federal contractors and banned forced arbitration clauses for sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination claims.
What does that mean?
The law no longer requires companies to be transparent about employee pay, women and minorities have no way of knowing whether their wages are fair, and it also means the government has undercut progress in closing the gender wage gap.
“There’s a requirement in there for federal contractors to provide basic information about pay, and that’s really critical for women who tend to work in hourly jobs,” Phadke said.
“Even though there were lots of references to equal pay throughout the campaign, in fact, he’s done the opposite. It says to me that President Trump and his team are completely out of touch with today’s working families.”
But that’s not all this executive order does. Another portion of it involves forced arbitration clauses, also known as cover-up clauses. They allow companies to hide previous cases of sexual assault, harassment and discrimination in the workplace, keeping them out of court and from the public record.
By eliminating the ban on forced arbitration clauses in companies that do business with the government, the Trump administration “now makes it easier for federal contractors who have chronic violations to keep getting federal funding,” Phadke said.
The message Trump’s repeal sends, Phadke said, is that “we value companies more than we value workers.”
2. THE GLOBAL GAG RULE IS BACK
Just four days after his inauguration, Trump signed an executive order to reinstate the Global Gag Rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy, which was introduced in 1984 by then-President Ronald Reagan. The policy prohibits abortion counseling by any nongovernment international organization that receives U.S. federal funding.
Trump reinstated the gag rule, and strengthened it to keep taxpayer dollars from supporting organizations that participate in “coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization” and banning “global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies.”
Ann Starrs, president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, whose mission is advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights around the world, wrote in an article for The Lancet that the move will disrupt family-planning programs and may lead to more abortions globally.
“The gag rule’s main effect has been to reduce women’s access to quality contraceptive services, thereby increasing the probability of unintended pregnancy and making recourse to abortion more likely,” she wrote.
Even though every conservative president since Reagan has reinstated the rule when taking office and every Democratic president has repealed it, Alixandra Yanus, an assistant professor of political science at High Point University in High Point, N.C., said other presidents have taken measures Trump has not to show their overall support of women.
“This silence is telling, particularly compared with the actions of President Obama, and even George W. Bush, who made an effort to emphasize, if only in words and symbolic actions, women’s issues, particularly internationally,” she said.
3. CUTS TO PLANNED PARENTHOOD
It was a move lauded by conservatives and anti-abortion activists but roundly denounced by women’s rights proponents who argue that the majority of the services Planned Parenthood provides have nothing to do with abortion.
Yet Trump signed an executive order Thursday allowing states to stop federal dollars to Planned Parenthood and other agencies that provide abortions by cutting their Title X Family Planning Program funding.
What’s left out of the conversation is that Planned Parenthood, which surely will suffer as a result of the measure, operates 650 health centers around the country, providing family-planning services, pap smears, mammograms, education services, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV tests and more to 2.5 million people, women and men, each year.
And it’s notable as well that it’s already against the law for Planned Parenthood or any clinic to use federal dollars for abortion services. The Hyde Amendment prevents Medicaid dollars from being used to pay for abortion except when the woman’s life is in danger or when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.
“There has never been more at stake,” Phadke said. “We’re just trying to highlight the ways that all of these actions are really falling short and enacting harm on women. When you take them together, it really is revealing that it is an aggressive assault on women’s rights.”
4. AFFORDABLE CARE ACT TARGETED
As lawmakers scrambled in Trump’s first 100 days to find a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, one proposal on the table was to cut the requirement that health insurance companies be mandated to cover 10 essential health benefits, including maternity services and preventive health care.
Although Trump nixed the plan, called the American Health Care Reform Act, in late March before a vote that likely would have come up short of passing, repealing the ACA remains among the president’s top priorities.
A new version of health care reform legislation might include not only a loss of coverage for maternity care services, but also preventive care, birth control coverage or any service that applies solely to women.
“Some of the positions that were advocated in the health care reform bill, which ultimately failed, about maternity care and that sort of thing suggest there’s an idea that there shouldn’t be differentiation made on the basis of any sort of protected classes in American policy,” she said.
“Now the de facto effect, of course, in not making those de facto differentiations on the basis of any protected classes, is that it privileges the traditional patriarchy of American society, and especially the white male patriarchy of American society, which goes back to why a lot of what Trump was saying was so appealing to many of those types of voters on the campaign trail.”
Phadke agreed: “We’ve seen his moves to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and the disastrous American Health Care Act, which would do things like allow insurers to drop coverage for maternity care, and let’s not forget our new Supreme Court justice, who I think could very well deny women their constitutional right to abortion.”
5. NON-DIVERSE CABINET
Regardless of the policy moves the Trump administration has made in its first 100 days, what’s most telling is what the president hasn’t done, and that’s appoint women to positions of power.
“Trump’s cabinet has just four women,” Phadke said. “It’s more white and more male than any cabinet since Ronald Reagan’s and the women have lower-ranking positions.”
And without diverse numbers of women on his staff, in his cabinet, he is leading without hearing women’s voices or learning from their experiences.
“The fear is that this virtual exclusion/ignorance of women’s issues and women’s broader role as policy leaders will set a precedent for the public sector and for generations of young women,” Yanus said.
“Certainly, any time the leader of the free world acts, it models behavior for the American people. It sends the implicit message that the behavior, be it racism, sexism, or any other –ism that plays on an ‘us v. them’ dynamic, is at least somewhat acceptable.”
And while some people might point to Kellyanne Conway and Omarosa and Ivanka Trump as women in power in Trump’s sphere, Dittmar notes that his actions speak louder than words.
“People could say, ‘Oh, he hired women.’ But in his public life on TV, on the campaign trail, all these interactions point to the fact that he doesn’t value women,” she said.
“As with many things with Trump, he’s making good on what he promised. He sold an ideal of masculinity and that’s what people got. And that’s what we’re seeing now. There’s not an attempt to change that. I think what we all need to pay attention to is, ‘does he have any incentive to change that?’ … If not, then he doesn’t need to change his tune because he’s speaking to the audience who elected him.”
And that, said Phadke, is the key to regaining power and voice in the Trump era.
“We all agree there was really harmful rhetoric during the campaign season, and it seems to be continuing. And there is a robust conversation about women, and women are actively engaging.
But what we need to do is to point out the flaws and to be sure that this administration doesn’t get away with proposals that don’t take women’s progress forward and reveal a lack of understanding about the challenges women face, and, even more importantly, how they connect together.”
Women taking action, marching in the streets, protesting, calling and writing to their lawmakers and letting it be known how they feel about these issues are the only way to make change.
“We’ve got a lot more work to do,” Dittmar said. “During his presidency, I think that part of this resistance is to push back and say, ‘No, we actually are beyond this. We don’t accept this as normal. We don’t accept that you’re president in 2017 and you only nominate four female cabinet members. We don’t accept that as normal. … We can and we should do better than that.’
“And that’s just a small thing. The policy issues are more significant in a lot of ways to women overall, but the symbolic things should be the easiest for him to do. There are plenty of qualified women he could choose for the cabinet. … To me, it signals a very blatant disregard for a lack of inclusion, and a disregard for issues of concern to women.”