President Donald Trump’s first year in office has been marked by a series of actions that openly declared war on women and girls. His primary target: sexual and reproductive health and rights.
From day one, Trump has used the full power of the executive branch to achieve this goal. He’s proposed drastically reducing or even eliminating funding for key initiatives and reinstated expanded versions of devastating policies like the Global Gag Rule. To spearhead and implement his attacks, Trump has stacked his cabinet with conservative ideologues, empowering individuals pushing a radical agenda that far outstrips efforts of previous Republican administrations.
Trump’s domestic and global policies have taken particular aim at women’s access to abortion, and have systematically sought to limit the ability of women—especially poor and marginalized women—to make their own decisions about their bodies and fertility.
President Trump has also consistently attacked and undermined the United Nations (UN) system and multilateralism. In his first year in office, the president has cut off funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and sought to massively reduce funding for other UN entities. UNFPA is the largest international provider of contraception, family planning, and other reproductive health services. His Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has embraced threats and bombastic language at the expense of diplomacy and collaboration, disrupting UN processes and attempting to roll back decades of consensus.
There is every indication that 2018 will bring a continued conservative offensive from an administration determined to pursue policy driven by ideology rather than by evidence.
Their first chance do so has already come, with the release of President Trump’s second budget request. In 2017, the president used his budget to propose the decimation of global health spending, including—for the first time ever—the complete elimination of funding for reproductive health. The President also proposed massive cuts to multilateral accounts and UN funding. Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget again proposes draconian cuts to critical global health and development funding. This time, the budget proposes to halve funding for reproductive health, instead of outright eliminating it. However, it also opens that funding up to organizations that only provide “natural” family planning, which have proven ineffective in helping women avoid unintended pregnancies, at the expense of organizations that provide a full range of modern contraceptives.
Just as we did in 2017, IWHC will work with members of Congress to head off these proposals. While final fiscal year 2018 funding negotiations are ongoing, congressional leaders from both parties made it clear that Trump’s funding cuts were a non-starter on Capitol Hill. In fact, when considering their version of fiscal year 2018 funding legislation, members of the Senate not only restored full funding for family planning and reproductive health, they also proposed a legislative repeal of the Global Gag Rule.
Similarly, IWHC will be ready to hold the Trump administration accountable at the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March. The Commission is one of the most significant global gatherings on women’s rights, drawing representatives from governments around the world, UN agencies, and nonprofit organizations. Last year, the Trump administration made its CSW debut with the appointment of the hate group C-Fam to the US delegation to the CSW. IWHC denounced the decision to allow a discriminatory group to represent the United States, and, in 2018, we will be watching closely to fight against any similar decision. Together with our global civil society partners, IWHC will also continue to counter any attempt by the administration to use the CSW—or other UN negotiations spaces—to roll back global commitments on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
In 2018, IWHC will also continue to document the destructive effects of the Global Gag Rule, a Trump policy that forbids foreign organizations who take US global health spending from engaging in abortion-related activities with their own funds. Together with partners in Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa, IWHC is conducting major research to reveal the harms of this policy.
As we build sustained opposition to the already-enacted policies of the Trump administration, IWHC will also fight any other effort to further restrict sexual and reproductive health and rights. A leaked White House “wish list” has offered insight into a range of damaging policies that Trump may pursue in 2018, including a decreased focus on “multilateral stuff,” and an emphasis on “fertility awareness” methods at the expense of other forms of contraception and family planning. A proposed strategic plan from the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes references to the rights of “the unborn,” and reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about employees being told to avoid terms like “fetus” and “evidence-based” offer concerning insights into the types of policies the Trump administration may well pursue in 2018.
While the Trump administration looks set to continue its attacks on women and girls in 2018, IWHC will continue to resist each and every attempt to roll back our rights. We are not alone. The millions of women that hit the streets to mark the start of his administration, along with the millions that again made their voices heard one year on, show us that women will not be silenced. IWHC’s more than thirty years of experience fostering powerful, resilient women’s movements give us the confidence that our fight to own our bodies and our futures, will prevail.
Photo: Gage Skidmore