War on Women Report No. 8

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.

Molly Adams

 Catching Up

+ On October 12th, Trump announced the U.S.’s departure from UNESCO, a global organization that promotes awareness and protection of internationally significant natural and cultural heritage through collaboration between member countries. The move reinforces Trump’s “America First” agenda, which argues that U.S. involvement in international agreements compromises the country’s total autonomy. Gender equality is an additional priority of UNESCO, made evident by the organization’s efforts to promote the empowerment of women and girls through access to complete education cycles. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, more boys than girls remain barred from school, roughly 16 million girls will never have the opportunity to enter a classroom, and women make up two thirds of the 750 million adults who don’t have basic literacy skills. UNESCO works to close these gaps through the promotion and sharing of heritage, which combats traditional attitudes towards the role and status of women across the globe.

+ In early October, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a Strategic Plan that states that life begins at conception—a claim that many anti-choice politicians make to promote legislation that strips women of their fundamental rights. The plan extends the violation of women’s rights further in stating that the HHS intends to create partnerships between state as well as local governments and “nongovernmental entities, including faith-based and other community organizations.” Studies show that partnerships between government entities and religiously-affiliated women’s organizations are inextricably linked to greater anti-abortion laws and lower health outcomes for women. Following the release of the new HHS plan, two additional interim rules were announced by the Trump administration, exempting all insurance companies and employers from the Affordable Care Act mandate to cover contraception without deductibles or co-pays based on religious beliefs or moral convictions. This ruling will inarguably hurt the millions of women who depend on financial assistance to afford birth control.

Monday 10/23

+ Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore—endorsed by the President himself—has equated gay sex to bestiality, praised Russia’s “gay propaganda” law, announced that Muslims should be barred from serving in the U.S. Congress and appeared multiple times on a radio show that preaches the stoning to death of gay people. And this past week, audio emerged in which Moore compares bakers who refuse to sell cake for gay marriages to victims of the Holocaust. Back in 2015, he paraphrased the famous Holocaust poem by Matin Niemöller, and later used an offensive analogy in which he compared laws banning discrimination against gay couples to soldiers receiving orders to kill Jews. Upon being asked to comment on Moore’s deplorable record, both President Trump and press chief Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeatedly ignored the call to condemn such blatant homophobia. Meanwhile, Trump has vowed that he will “fight like hell” for Moore.

Tuesday 10/24

+ At around 2 a.m. on Tuesday, Border Patrol agents stopped an ambulance in which 10-year-old Rosemarie Hernandez—who has cerebral palsy and has been living in the U.S. since she was an infant—was being transported to a hospital in Texas for emergency gall bladder surgery. The agents then followed her to Driscoll Children’s Hospital, where they waited outside her room until she was discharged and took her to a facility for unaccompanied migrant children upon her release— despite the fact that her parents live 150 miles away. In an interview, Hernandez’s mother explained that her family had moved from Mexico to Texas when her daughter was three months old hoping that she would receive better and affordable treatment for cerebral palsy in the U.S. Because of the severity of her illness, Hernandez’s doctors have recommended that she be released from the facility and placed under the care of relatives. This is the treatment she desperately needs—not the treatment of a high-calibre criminal. Such reckless mistreatment of immigrant children and families is part and parcel of the Trump administration’s egregious immigration enforcement nationwide; since Trump’s inauguration, the new administration has lifted Obama-era guidelines that protected and provided pathways for undocumented Americans and increased the number of immigration arrests by more than 40 percent.

+ In an unprecedented attack on thousands of transgender service members, the Trump administration is continuing the misguided pursuit to ban transgender people from serving in the military. Early this year, Trump announced that transgender people would be barred from serving in the military, and just this week he asked the court to abandon a lawsuit against the ban. The case in question was filed on behalf of seven plaintiffs, and calls for the court to dismiss a request for an immediate injunction against the ban. Despite multiple civil rights lawsuits, officials of the administration are pushing forward with plans to “purge” existing soldiers who identify as transgender and block new recruitment of any transgender-identifying folks as well. This pernicious policy inflicts harm on transgender individuals who want to enlist but now can’t, and leaves transgender folks who have already served in precarious positions as their post-service treatment remains unclear.

Wednesday 10/25

+ Jane Doe—an undocumented minor—was finally able to receive an abortion Wednesday following a month-long back-and-forth with the Trump administration. Despite having secured funding and tying up all legal matters, Doe was denied access time and again to abortion by officials—who even appealed court rulings ordering them to find her abortion care and make it possible for her to undergo the procedure. The case sheds light on the impact of a seven-month-old policy shift that has given the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) the green light to prevent abortions sought by girls in federally funded shelters. HHS has even intervened in cases of rape and incest, forcing minors to instead turn to crisis pregnancy centers—religiously affiliated groups established specifically to deter women from having abortions. In early March, three HHS employees also began informally detailing cases of undocumented minors in federal custody requesting abortions and threatening to pull funding from shelters that support abortion services. According to ACLU estimates, there are currently several hundred pregnant young women in federal shelters across the country, many of whom are survivors of rape or sex and gender-based violence.

+ It was revealed Wednesday that Trump’s chosen ambassador to New Zealand, Republican Senator Scott Brown, made sexist comments at a Samoan Peace Corps event and is now under official inquiry by the State Department. Brown reportedly told a number of guests at the event that they looked “beautiful,” and told one woman in particular that she could earn “hundreds of dollars” working in the U.S. Another woman reported that Brown immediately looked at her chest upon meeting her. “I felt immediately uncomfortable and didn’t feel right,” she said. More than a dozen guests who attended attended the event reported that the ambassador’s behavior was excessively problematic. Brown chalked his actions up as “cultural misunderstanding”—a wildly ignorant excuse considering cultural awareness is baked in to his job description, and objectifying a woman is inexcusable regardless of the country or culture. (This isnt the first time Brown has been accused of such unconscionable behavior: In 2016, Andrea Tantaros, a former Fox News host, accused Brown, then a Fox contributor, of making unwanted sexual comments and advances toward her. He denied the allegations, and was never named as a defendant in the lawsuit filed by Tantaros.)



Jessica Merino is a former Ms. editorial intern.