The War on Women Report No. 6

The War on Women is in full force under the Trump administration. We refuse to go back, and we refuse to let the administration quietly dismantle the progress we’ve made. We are watching. 

This is the War on Women Report.

Friday 9/29

+ Friday night, South Carolina’s women’s basketball team and head coach Dawn Staley became the first women’s college champions since 1983 to not be invited to meet with the President at the White House. President Trump has been aggressive about requesting visits from college teams, insisting that the Warriors, Penguins, Patriots, Cubs and more attend the yearly events—so the fact that the South Carolina women’s team hasn’t received an invitation, months after their win, “speaks volumes,” Staley said to the Associated Press

Sunday 10/1

+ Across the country, state officials are preparing for the worst as Washington lawmakers struggle to find the funds for the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which insures nearly nine million children whose families can’t afford insurance yet don’t qualify for Medicaid. The program lost its spending on Sunday, when two congressional panels—the Senate Finance Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee—failed to bring the bill to a vote, effectively placing the health of children and their mother’s in jeopardy. This willful act of negligence by Congress has placed pregnant women and children at imminent risk of losing health coverage. CHIP ensures that the Senate and House each provide a total of $118.5 billion, to be parceled out among the 50 states, over five years. Without these significant infusions, more than twenty five states are expected to completely drain all their CHIP funds within six months. Some states, like Arizona, Minnesota and North Carolina, are expected to exhaust their funds even sooner.

Tuesday 10/3

+ The U.S. joined Saudi Arabia, China and 10 other nations Tuesday in a vote against a United Nations resolution condemning the death penalty for “same-sex relations.” The UN resolution, which asks countries “that have not yet abolished the death penalty to ensure that it is not imposed as a sanction for specific forms of conduct such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations,” passed 27-13 without U.S. support. Homosexuality is considered a crime punishable by death in 13 countries, and is illegal in over 70. 

+ The House of Representatives Tuesday voted to pass a bill that eliminates abortion procedures after 20 weeks nationwide, with limited exceptions for survivors of rape and pregnant women who’s lives are in imminent danger. H.R. 36 is the latest iteration of a vicious bill—similar variations have passed the House in 2013 and 2015—that criminalizes women’s constitutional rights and directly challenges Roe v. Wade. “Politicians have absolutely no right to judge and denigrate women who seek out abortion after 20 weeks,” Gaylynn Burroughs of the Feminist Majority said in a statement. “The overwhelming majority of abortions take place prior to the 20 week mark, and those who seek out abortion later in pregnancy often do so for very complex and personal reasons, including severe fetal anomalies, most of which can’t be known BEFORE the 20 week mark.” Studies show that it is low-income women and women of color who bear the disproportionate burden of restrictions on abortion, as well as young women and poor women who are more likely to need this type of care later in their pregnancies. 

Wednesday 10/4

+ On Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in a memo that the Justice Department will change its interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to no longer extend the law to gender-based discrimination. The 1964 civil rights law was created specifically to prevent employers from discriminating against employees based on sex, race, religion and national origin. Yet a handful of federal courts have ruled—and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission agrees—that the Title VII law encompasses discrimination against gender identity as well. The position is to apply to all pending and future matters, thus placing transgender people at immediate risk of harm. 

+ The White House also announced its new tax plan Wednesday. The policy would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy—and would cut the President’s own tax bills by more than $1.1 billion—by eliminating the estate tax and the decades-old alternative minimum tax, both of which are meant to prevent America’s wealthiest from generating massive savings and using deductions to pay little or no federal income tax. Tax policies have enormous and disproportionate repercussions for womenwho earn 78 cents on the dollar compared to menand Trump’s is no exception

+ On Wednesday morning, Politico published a Budget Committee Minority report that revealed that Senate Republicans are working to cut $1 trillion from Medicare and $473 billion from Medicaid funding over the next ten years. The report outlines cuts to housing, nutrition assistance, heating, transportation, Pell Grant funding, Head Start services and National Institutes of Health funding; it would also increase the cost of federal student loans. The scope of such cuts, which would add up to roughly $5 trillion over the next decade, would make it significantly harder for women and their families to gain necessary access to health care, enter retirement with dignity, and guarantee their children a decent education. The budget would also pull hundreds of billions of dollars away from Affordable Care Act tax credits, hitting low-income women even harder in the midst of attacks on their coverage.

+ Also Wednesday, Republican Governor Sam Brownback—Trump’s nominee for U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom—defended his decision to kill protections for LGBT workers in Kansas while fielding questions from Senator Tim Kaine. Brownback began his second term in office by revoking an executive order that had made it illegal to discriminate against LGBT state employees, and defended the decision using the broken logic of reverse discrimination—claiming that the protections did not extend to “other people” and as such should have never passed by the legislative branch. A year later, Brownback signed an anti-gay “religious liberty” bill, referring to groups that discriminate against LGBTQ individuals as the “building blocks of society.” Such a claim makes it is clear as to why the governor has been called an anti-LGBTQ religious extremist. 

Friday 10/6

+ The Trump administration Friday announced two new interim rules that dismantle the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, giving employers and insurance companies the ability to deny birth control coverage to employees and enrollees. The ACLU is suing the Trump administration over the new rules.

Under the Affordable Care Act, employers and insurance companies were required to provide plans that covered birth control without co-pays or deductibles—saving millions of women thousands of dollars over their lifetimes. Two new interim rules will now water-down that mandate, allowing religious exemptions for employers and insurance companies—whether profit-making or not—from providing coverage to employees or enrollees that provides them with access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare.

“These new rules are, by definition, a discriminatory attack on women,” said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority, in a statement. “Women’s bodies and healthcare should not be subject to the opinion of their employer. For right-wing, self-righteous politicians to even suggest so is misogynistic, patronizing lunacy… Broadening the exemption allows any employer or insurance company with a ‘moral’ objection to opt out of coverage, sending a clear message to women in America: your body doesn’t belong to you.”

Kelli Musick, the National Campus Coordinator for the CHOICES Feminist Leadership program, echoed Smeal in a statement. “Women’s bodies should not be subject to the opinion of their employer or their university,” she said. “This is our future that is being shaken and disrupted by the misogynistic Trump-Pence agenda.”

+ The Department of Justice Friday also issued a memo about protecting “religious liberty”—guidance some say could give license to discriminate. As seen in the birth control rule decision, religious freedom is often used as a guise for anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ policies.

Jessica Merino has divided her time over the last several years between Community Studies at UC Santa Cruz and exploring and reporting on women’s issues across cultures. She has interned with the White House-recognized organization Girls Write Now, with Creative Time Reports, and with a startup social enterprise where she shared the stories of South East Asian women artisans with the international community. She is now an editorial intern at Ms. Magazine where she reports on issues related to women’s health.

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