8 Ultra-Conservatives Leading Trump’s War on Women

One year after the election of Donald Trump, it has become clear that his Administration staunchly pursues one priority: removing policies that protect the rights of women and girls while ensuring that conservative ideologues with extreme, retrograde views are positioned to decide on women’s bodies and lives.

At the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC), we have been chronicling the Trump Administration’s efforts to restrict sexual and reproductive health and rights from day one. Our unique lens is documenting and analyzing the repercussions of the Administration’s actions for women and girls worldwide. We have found that a track record of restricting women’s access to health care has seemingly become a key credential for joining President Trump’s Administration.

Here are Trump’s top-tier anti-woman nominees and appointees:

  1. Penny Young Nance, US Ambassador-at-Large for the Office of Global Women’s Issues (rumored nominee): Nance has an extensive record of championing policy rooted in religion and ideology, rather than in fact and science. Her ambition surpasses legal restrictions. “It is not enough to make abortion illegal, we strive to make it unthinkable,” she stated. Nance has worked to limit access to common birth control methods like emergency contraception. She supports so-called “Heartbeat Bill,” legislation that would ban abortion at around six weeks of pregnancy, despite a lack of medical evidence to support such a restrictive ban. Some versions of this legislation would also punish physicians with prison sentences for providing standard medical care. One such bill is currently under consideration in Congress. Her anti-abortion views are extreme, even suggesting that women facing life-threatening complications from pregnancy should carry their fetus to term. Nance is clearly not qualified to spearhead US efforts to support gender equality and the human rights of women and girls around the world.


  1. Sam Brownback, US Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom (nominee): Long a zealous opponent of women’s and LGBTQ rights, Senator Brownback has often sought to cloak his efforts to block access to health and undermine human rights in a veil of religious liberty, justifying crackdowns on individual choice through a twisted understanding of religious freedom. As Governor of Kansas, he supported some of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws, including legislation allowing pharmacists to refuse to provide drugs they believe might cause an abortion; a budget defunding Planned Parenthood; and a law that states that life begins “at fertilization” and requires doctors to tell women that abortion causes breast cancer (a proven lie). Senator Brownback’s approach in Kansas—using narrow religious interpretations to justify large-scale denials of human rights—has become more common in many countries around the world where women, LGBTQ persons, and other groups see their health and rights jeopardized in the name of religion. His record demonstrates an interest in advancing a conservative ideology at the expense of human rights.


  1. Bethany Kozma, Senior Adviser for Women’s Empowerment, Office of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, US Agency for International Development: Kozma, a former White House staffer who spent the waning months of the Obama Administration leading a campaign to restrict bathroom access for transgender students, has been tapped by an agency responsible for a substantial amount of LGBT human rights and development programming, including economic support, education, and health. She has no history of leadership on women’s rights, no record of advocating for gender equality and empowerment, and no international development experience. These would appear to be basic requirements to advise a leading foreign development aid agency on issues that affect more than half the world’s population.


  1. Mark Green, Administrator, US Agency for International Development (USAID): Unlike other Trump nominees, Ambassador Green brings significant experience to this position. Following four terms as a Congressman for Wisconsin, Green served as ambassador to Tanzania, headed the International Republican Institute and was previously on the board of directors at the Millennium Challenge Corporation. However, his record on reproductive rights and women’s health is discouraging. As Congressman, Ambassador Green repeatedly voted for ideologically driven policies that restrict women’s control over their bodies and limit access to a full range of reproductive health care. NARAL Pro-Choice America gave him a 0 percent rating for consistently voting against abortion rights. He voted in favor of a provision to maintain the President’s ability to implement the Global Gag Rule, a policy that prohibits family planning funding to foreign organizations that provide abortion services, counseling, and referrals—allowing international access to abortion services to remain at the whim of politicians in Washington. Trump’s Gag Rule is already threatening women’s health. IWHC provided recommendations for Ambassador Green’s new role.


  1. Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations: Haley’s views and actions also represent an across-the-board threat to women’s health. She has staked her name as an opponent of abortion rights in the state of South Carolina, signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation, including a 20-week abortion ban. She launched a statewide investigation into clinics that provide abortions in the wake of a 2015 Planned Parenthood smear campaign, and told ABC’s The View that “women don’t care about contraception,” but rather about jobs and families. Under her tenure, the US has blocked global agreements that would advance sexual and reproductive rights, and cut off all funding for the UN Population Fund, the world’s largest provider of reproductive health services.


  1. Rex Tillerson, US Secretary of State (Since resigned): Tillerson’s positions on sexual and reproductive rights are largely unknown, yet he is overseeing one of the world’s largest government programs supporting women’s sexual and reproductive health globally. During his confirmation hearings, Tillerson expressed a personal commitment to gender equality. Yet when asked if he would continue to prioritize US support for family planning and reproductive health—which are critical for women’s and girls’ autonomy, economic independence, and political participation—he failed to provide assurances that US leadership on these issues would continue. Instead, he indicated that these programs would be under review. In his tenure so far, he has not interfered with the US taking regressive positions on sexual and reproductive rights in international forums. Since taking office, Tillerson has embarked on a controversial and highly political process of redesigning U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance and has undermined women’s health and rights at every turn, both through devastating policies like the Global Gag Rule and by calling for budget cuts to key global programs.


  1. Tom Price, Secretary, Health and Human Services (Since resigned): At the time of his nomination, Price had a well-documented history of anti-science and anti-reproductive health views that could have significantly harmed and undermined the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women in the US and globally. He is a member of a medical association that has consistently taken false positions contradicting evidence-based medicine on numerous issues, including denying the existence of HIV/AIDS and claiming that abortion causes illness. In Congress, he sought to curtail women’s access to contraception and abortion, and to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which ensures access to contraception, a continued target for President Trump. The head of the HHS oversees US global health policy and commitments, and plays a significant role at the World Health Assembly (WHA), the governing body of the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO sets global standards and guidance for sexual and reproductive health care, including crises such as Zika, which could be subject to political meddling from the US Government if ideological positions hold sway. At the time of Price’s resignation, HHS invited public comment on a draft Strategic Plan that would recognize life from the moment of conception and pave the way for increased restrictions on access to abortion in the US and abroad.


  1. Jeff Sessions, US Attorney General: Senator Sessions’ long record of hostility towards women’s reproductive rights is crucial as the country’s chief implementer of laws in the US must have a record of fairness and respect for the rights of women, which the attorney general severely lacks. In fact, his confirmation could still eviscerate women’s reproductive rights domestically and signal to the world that hostility to basic rights is a welcome standard for the Trump administration. As a senator, Sessions repeatedly voted against provisions to protect abortion providers from violence. It is the attorney general’s responsibility to uphold the rule of law. He has already played an instrumental role in diminishing the rights of women, LGBT and other communities within the US, which sets a new, low standard and threatens to erode such rights globally.

Photo: WhiteHouse.gov video “President Trump Delivers a Statement”

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