War on Women Report No. 23

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.

Monday, 4/16

W Magazine Monday published an interview with Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards in which she vocally criticized Ivanka Trump. “My criticism of her isn’t as a daughter of the president—it’s that if you’re supposedly in charge of advancing women’s situations in this country, then show up,” Richards said. “And for God’s sake, you can’t be trading away women’s rights.” In her new book, Make Trouble, Richards recounts a meeting with Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner in which they offered to give Planned Parenthood more funding if the organization ended their abortion services.

+ On Monday, a new ABC/Washington Post poll revealed 68 percent of women view President Trump unfavorably as a person; 61 percent of all people polled responded that they disliked Trump as a person. These numbers are obviously quite high—and yet, on some level, it doesn’t feel like they’re high enough, considering that this is the same man who dismissed boasting about sexual assault as “locker room talk” mere weeks before being elected.

+ Also on Monday, a lawyer to Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen revealed Cohen’s third client to be Fox News’ Sean Hannity. Cohen also worked for Trump and RNC deputy finance chairman Elliott Broidy; he helped him cover up an extramarital sexual relationship and subsequent abortion. Hannity, who has repeatedly used airtime to defend Cohen, has since vehemently denied the allegations. Just last year, a woman accused Hannity of sexual harassment.

Tuesday, 4/17

+ On Tuesday, Buzzfeed reported that Trump officials attending a closed-door meeting at the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women demanded the removal of language recognizing contraception, abortion and sexual health education as human rights and called the U.S. a “pro-life” country. According to the report, the Health Department officials’ demands were opposed by all but one other country in the room. These comments, which those present at the meeting have said sent a wave of silence over the attendees, fit into the larger anti-abortion agenda of the Trump administration—one with devastating global effects. Earlier this year, the State Department removed pro-reproductive rights language from a global report on women’s rights; within days of becoming president, Trump put millions of women and girls of reproductive age around the world by re-instating the Global Gag Rule and threatening the funding of organizations that even so much as mention contraception and abortion to their patients.

+ Also on Tuesday, Right Wing Watch published a report revealing that religious conservative group Focus on the Family, which hosted vice-president Mike Pence as an event speaker just last month, successfully sought to be recognized as a church by the IRS in 2016, likely for freedom from financial transparency rules and requirements such as unemployment benefits and the ACA contraceptive mandate. In a letter to the tax bureau, the organization’s attorneys called the group’s employees its “ministers” and “congregation” and its board members “elders,” and identified its cafeteria as “a place of worship.” The group’s pitch was successful—which is concerning most of all because of the precedent this could set for similar organizations to evade the kind of accountability advocacy groups nationwide are held to. Focus on the Family has notably supported so-called LGBT “conversion therapy,” a practice denounced in the medical community which can drive queer and trans youth to suicide. A former Focus president—or “head deacon,” according to its attorneys—claimed the Sandy Hook massacre was God’s punishment for LGBTQ lifestyles. In 2017, Mike Pence said Focus on the Family had “an unwavering ally in President Donald Trump” in a speech to its members.

+ Nikki Haley responded on Tuesday to National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow’s comments that she had spoken out of “momentary confusion” about new U.S. sanctions against Russia, which Trump later walked back on. “With all due respect,” she remarked, “I don’t get confused.” Haley’s seemingly hostile response to a fellow Trump official has since drawn wide attention—and while her rebuttal to Kudlow’s condescending comment is important, it’s worth noting that the former Governor of South Carolina has stood behind the majority of the president’s foreign policy decisions, many of which have been disastrous for global women’s rights.

+Women fleeing violence, sexual assault and domestic abuse have long sought necessary asylum in the U.S.—but that may soon change. On Tuesday, Politico reported that President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have actively been working to repeal a program allowing survivors of domestic abuse fleeing from their abusers in Central America to receive asylum in the United States. “Sessions, from his position as the top official in charge of the immigration courts,” Politico reported, “is leading a broad review to question whether domestic or sexual violence should ever be recognized as persecution that would justify protection in the United States.”

Wednesday, 4/18

+ Former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal was released from her NDA agreement about her alleged extramarital relationship with Donald Trump on Wednesday. While the affair was consensual and more outrage is due to his alleged acts of sexual misconduct, Trump’s alleged extramarital sexual relationships are still highly important to discuss publicly, as they serve as a critical reminder of the hypocrisy of the president’s vast evangelical base.

+ On Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee approved a draft of the “farm bill,” the 2014 version of which will soon expire. This new version written by Republican lawmakers would make SNAP eligibility even more difficult, and exacerbate the issue of food insecurity among low-income Americans. The bill would also eliminate the Conservation Stewardship Program, a key program for conserving water and soil. Its stringent work requirements for Americans to qualify for SNAP would also disproportionately affect women, who are more likely to head single-parent households, and more likely to live in poverty. The changes to the farm bill ignore how most able-bodied food-insecure people are not only working, but are also likely working multiple jobs and still struggling to provide food for themselves and their family. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi came out in opposition of the farm bill draft this week.

+ On Wednesday, President Trump tweeted that Californians “want OUT of this ridiculous, crime infested and breeding concept,” in reference to the state’s Sanctuary laws for undocumented immigrants. “Jerry Brown is trying to back out of the National Guard at the Border,” Trump added, “but the people of the state are not happy. Want security and safety NOW!” In addition to spreading false and dangerous stereotypes by depicting immigrants as criminals, the tweet used the particularly racist term “breeding,” which reduces them to animals. “Fear of immigrants from certain countries ‘breeding’ has been a staple of nativist thought for hundreds of years,” an op-ed on CNN pointed out. “The ‘breeding’ fear has been affixed to Jews from Eastern Europe, Catholics from Ireland and Italy, Chinese and, now, Latinos, Filipinos, Africans and Haitians.”

Thursday, 4/19

+ On Thursday, in a blow to President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision blocking the Justice Department’s latest attack on a sanctuary city. Sessions has used his position as attorney general to not only require judges to meet quotas in ruling in favor of deportation, but has also waged war on sanctuary cities across the country. The court blocked the Justice Department from adding new conditions on policing grants to Chicago that required cooperation with federal immigration enforcement, thus making it legally impossible for Chicago to be a sanctuary city.

+ Memos by James Comey released Thursday alleged that Trump had once told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia had the “most beautiful hookers in the world.” In addition to inflaming rumors and speculation about the validity of the controversial Steele dossier, the alleged comment also used an offensive and degrading term for sex workers—revealing Trump’s contempt for women even further.

Friday, 4/20

+ On Friday, CIA Director and nominee for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo failed to earn enough votes from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to move on to the full Senate in his confirmation hearings, although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can still initiate a full Senate vote regardless. In addition to being anti-LGBTQ, Pompeo proudly opposes abortion rights for all women and even for rape survivors, a stance that could put women and girls around the world at risk. Under Rex Tillerson, the State Department was already hostile to women’s rights, removing key language about contraception and abortion from a global women’s rights report; Pompeo’s notoriously radicalized views would likely inspire even more concerning foreign policy shifts.

The Washington Post published a report Friday examining the Trump administration’s effects on violence stemming from white supremacy and nativism in the United States and Canada. This week, verdicts were reached in two cases, involving either a a shooting at or attempting bombing of mosques; the attacks were coordinated by white men in the weeks around when Trump won the 2016 election and when he was sworn into office. In neither case did Trump ever acknowledge these attacks, despite never ceding an opportunity to tweet or propagate Islamophobia in cases of terror attacks led by extremists citing Islam. According to the article, there is a correlation between Trump’s anti-migrant, Islamophobic language and a preading danger in the U.S. and around the world to communities of color and, specifically, those othered by and scapegoated by his rhetoric and policies. The report echoes the initial terror of the weeks following the 2016 election, in which hate crimes spiked and neo-Nazis became more emboldened across the country.

Kylie Cheung is an editorial intern at Ms. She writes about feminism in politics and pop culture with a focus on reproductive justice. Her work appeared in Rewire, Teen Vogue, The Mary Sue and Mediaite, among others.

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