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The election of Donald Trump and women’s liberation

Commentary by Stephanie Taylor |
January 21, 2017
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More than one million join Women's March on Washington DC. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Minneapolis, MN - Donald Trump, the U.S. president-elect, embodies an anti-woman agenda. He promotes rape culture, attacking women who dare speak out against him as fat and ugly. He is guilty of serial sexual harassment and believes that women want to be grabbed by him because he is a celebrity. It’s difficult not to read the election of Trump as an attack on women’s gains against sexual harassment and assault and for full equality - not so much because of who didn’t win the election but because of who did. A system run by the rich and powerful, in the interests of the rich and powerful does not serve the interests of the vast majority of us no matter what face represents it.

For most of Trump’s life he said he was pro-choice but changed his position to fit into a right-wing context and win the election. His campaign was filled with racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy proposals. We can expect that his policy initiatives will be bad for poor and working women in many arenas, whether it is the right of women to control our own bodies or raise our children. While it is not enough to focus solely on reproductive rights and the right to choose we can look at that issue and see it as a test on where his policies will come down in terms of how women will be impacted.

It is glaringly clear that his cabinet is full of anti-choice-ers. This isn’t just about possible Supreme Court picks. The proposed cabinet members have the potential to limit and restrict not only abortion access, but all reproductive health services, including standard preventative sexual transmitted infection (STI) screenings, cuts to childcare and early childhood education and dismantling worker protections. Poor and working-class families will suffer the brunt of these policies.

Trump’s attorney general pick, Jeff Sessions, is notoriously anti-abortion. He has voted against Health and Human Services grants and federal funds being given to organizations that perform abortions, he has voted for preventing children and whoever might be accompanying them from crossing state lines to receive an abortion, and has voted against the protection from harassment and violence for those who work in organizations that provide abortion.

These are just a few highlights from Sessions’ anti-choice voting record. As attorney general, we have to acknowledge the real risk of what the Justice Department will be able to dismantle in the area of reproductive rights. Trump wants to repeal completely the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While, most can agree, the ACA does not go far enough, what it has done is provide free access to all methods of birth control and education for female-bodied people. With Sessions as attorney general, the Justice Department could very well decide to stop defending this coverage requirement - allowing employers to not cover birth control. He could also stop enforcing the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which protects healthcare workers and patients from violence and intimidation. We know that we have seen a surge of violence against women and oppressed nationalities since Donald Trump was elected. Now, we are facing the real threat of having some of our legal protections ignored by the Justice Department or worse, repealed all together.

Similarly, there is Tom Price, the candidate who is expected to be appointed as secretary of health and human services. He is just as ferociously anti-choice, anti-ACA and anti-Medicaid and Medicare. His position would allow him to rescind the contraceptive coverage aspect of the ACA, making birth control and STI testing probably unattainable for under-insured and uninsured people.

Then there is Mike Pence, vice president-elect. Pence knows full well the effects of limiting access to reproductive health clinics that may or may not provide abortions, like Planned Parenthood. In 2011 Pence defunded Planned Parenthood in the state of Indiana which led to clinics closing by 2013. Now, after only a few short months, the state is suffering from an HIV outbreak – 140 new cases in four months at the beginning of 2015.

Finally, there’s Trump, whose ambition is to ban abortion. We know that an estimated 50,000 women die each year worldwide from unsafe abortion. Banning abortion doesn’t make it go away or decrease – it goes underground and becomes unsafe. This endangers all women, but low-income and oppressed nationality women will be the hardest hit. Already, capitalism restricts access to effective contraception and reproductive health care, resulting in a higher rates of STIs and unplanned pregnancies for these women. Trump administration policies promise to make all of this worse.

Women have come a long way over the past few decades, and that progress is worth fighting to defend and expand. Female-bodied people are amongst the many who are under attack, and it is incumbent upon us to resist every policy that undermines our historic victories. While white upper class women may have been the face of yesterday’s women’s movement, but it is working class women, and oppressed women who make up the majority, and must define the way forward.

If there is a silver lining presenting itself in the face of an incoming racist, sexist, homophobic president-elect, it is this: it is the people, not corporate politicians, who are the makers of history. Our movements will become emboldened to move this country forward – this is just a challenge.

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