Since the start of his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump has taken positions that have the potential to undermine reproductive health, rights, and justice. Here are just 3 examples of the devastating consequences that these positions may have for women, both here in the U.S. and other parts of the world:
1. Additional Restrictions on Access to Abortion
Mr. Trump has indicated that he would appoint an anti-choice justice to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court created after Justice Scalia died earlier this year. Each of the candidates included on the list of potential nominees that Mr. Tump released during his campaign is known for being quite conservative and, for the most part, extremely anti-abortion. While replacing Scalia with another conservative would merely restore the status quo of the court, there is a chance that Mr. Trump may have the opportunity to appoint additional justices during his tenure as president, as three of the justices who have upheld abortion rights are quite old (Ginsberg is 83, Kennedy is 80, and Breyer is 78). However, even under these circumstances, overturning Roe v. Wade would be an uphill battle.
The more immediate threat posed the Trump administration in this area is that lawmakers in conservative states will be emboldened by an anti-choice Executive Branch (including Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, nominee for U.S. Attorney General Sen. Jeff Sessions, and transition team member Rep. Marsha Blackburn) and by a Republican, largely anti-choice majority in Congress to continue their efforts to restrict access to abortion at the local level. Such abortion restrictions are likely to have a discriminatory effect on poor women and women living in rural areas, many of whom are women of color.
2. Increased Cost of Contraception
While Mr. Trump has not addressed contraception explicitly since beginning his presidential campaign, he has indicated that his administration would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which would have a detrimental effect on many women’s ability to access this service. The ACA includes a contraceptive coverage mandate, which includes contraceptives on a list of preventative health services that insurance companies are required to provide at no cost.
While repealing the ACA is unlikely (as Republicans do not have a supermajority in the Senate), the Trump administration could gut the law’s contraceptive coverage mandate without ever involving Congress. It could ask the Department of Health and Human Services to eliminate contraception (or certain forms of contraception) from the ACA’s list of preventive services. Under these circumstances, many women would have to start paying a co-pay to access contraceptives and some could lose insurance coverage of their preferred method.
3. Decreased US Foreign Assistance for Reproductive Health Services Abroad
As noted by my colleague, Mr. Trump’s position on foreign aid remains unclear. However, global health experts are concerned that the $600 million of U.S. foreign assistance currently appropriated for family planning and reproductive health programs may be at risk. The Trump administration, for example, may choose to withdraw the $32 million of US funding that currently goes to the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNPFA), a UN agency which plays a key role in advancing the reproductive health and rights of millions of women worldwide.
It is also possible that the Trump administration will reinstate the “Global Gag Rule”, a Reagan-era policy that prohibits groups that receive U.S. aid from providing abortions or even counseling patients about the procedure. The US already has another law in place (the 1973 Helms Amendment) that prohibits U.S. aid from going to pay for abortions abroad, so the rule has the effect of prohibiting groups receiving these funds from using their own funding or funding from other donors to provide abortions or abortion counseling services. The reinstatement of this rule would likely lead not only to clinic closures, cuts in services, and increased fees, but also to decreases in access to contraception and increases in the incidence of unsafe abortion.
It remains unclear to what extent Mr. Trump will follow through on the promises he made during his campaign. In the meantime, reproductive health, rights, and justice advocates must remain vigilant.
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The views reflected in this blog are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.