War on Women Report No. 9

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 10/27

+ The White House confirmed on Friday its official position on President Trump’s acts of sexual misconduct—perniciously claiming that the sexual harassment reports of all 16 women are “fake news.” When reports are recklessly dismissed and the President of the United States is exonerated from such serious crimes it legitimizes and further normalizes systemic sexual misconduct across industries and multiple levels of governance. Research shows that one in six American women will experience sexual assault during their lifetime. Despite the wide underreporting of sexual assault, there are nearly 40.8 million survivors of sex and gender-based violence in the United States right now, all of whom have to see a sexual predator navigate the highest ranks of power in the United States.

+ Trump announced Friday that he will be re-declaring the opioid crisis a “public health emergency,” rather than a “national emergency.” This minor shift in rhetoric translates to a massive shift in national policy, as the federal government will no longer direct funds to address the opioid epidemic, which took the lives of 64,000 Americans last year alone. Women bear the greater burden of this crisis: Studies show greater harm—such as overdoses from prescription pain killers—occurs in larger numbers among women and girls, and between 1990 and 2010, the number of overdose deaths increased by 400 percent among women, according to the CDC. Women are also significantly more likely to be prescribed opioids and to be given higher dosages for longer periods of time. While the need for a gender-based analysis and response to the epidemic is increasingly clear and urgent, the likelihood that the Trump administration—which has been vehemently anti-harm reduction—will take necessary action is starkly slim.

Tuesday 10/31

+ Following the request to add mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico Carmen Yulín Cruz, to the witness list at a Homeland Security Committee panel to examine hurricane recovery, House Republicans postponed the crucial hearing. Six weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory, the majority of the island is still without power, only 40-60 percent of the population has access to [questionable] water sources, medical services are scare, supermarkets are fully wrung of supplies, and only now is Congress beginning to examine the official response. Yet, House Republicans want to hear only from those who think positively of the Trump administration—and this ever-shrinking list does not include Mayor Cruz, who has been a vocal critic of the Trump administration’s reckless and offensive treatment of it’s own citizens on the island territory. On Tuesday she responded to the disastrous decision to postpone the hearing on Twitter, accusing FEMA of a “deplorable” response to the utter devastation of Puerto Rico and its people.

+ Rosa Maria Hernandez, the 10-year-old undocumented child with cerebral palsy who was detained by immigration officers following an emergency surgery, was prevented Tuesday from going on her surgeon-recommended post-operative follow-up visits. Stuck in detention at the San Antonio Office of Refugee Resettlement facility, Rosa’s health and safety are in serious danger. Despite multiple requests for the child’s release, the Trump administration has yet to comply. In a formal letter to the government, the ACLU demanded Rosa’s immediate release, warning that the government is “in violation of [Rosa’s] statutory and constitutional rights [and] we will take immediate legal action and pursue all available remedies under the law to secure Rosa Maria’s release.” When the government refused to comply, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against the government as well as a motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Wednesday 11/1

+ The Trump administrated voted no on a U.N. General Assembly resolution that calls for an end to the United State’s embargo on Cuba. This move is part of the administration’s larger effort to roll back former President Obama’s efforts to normalize U.S. and Cuba relations, which was expected to foster political and economic reforms that would greatly benefit the people of Cuba and counteract the many challenges faced by Cuban women. Currently, women make up nearly half of Cuba’s labor force, yet are still restrained by glass ceilings and are underrepresented in most sectors. Cuba is also embroiled in a major housing crisis—and with few affordable homes available, it’s women and their families that suffer first and foremost. Stronger relations between the U.S. and Cuba would give women greater access to the internet and related apps and services that make every-day tasks—like finding affordable housing, day care centers and grocery stores—significantly easier.

Thursday 11/2

+ A new investigation released by Rewire on Thursday revealed that women at a Catholic hospital in Indiana felt coerced into a so-called “funerals for fetuses” program following miscarriages—one now-Vice President and then-Governor Mike Pence would turn into law. (“I was being made to feel like I was the unfeeling, uncaring party in that transaction—that if this was a life that I valued I would be participating in that program, and that’s just none of their business,” one woman told reporters. “And it doesn’t matter, either, but in my particular case it was a life whose possibility I had cherished.”) Last year, Pence signed a law that mandates either the burial or cremation of miscarried and aborted fetuses, a policy a district court ruled unconstitutional. The state has vowed to appeal the ruling. Programs that pressure and intimidate women into burring fetuses are not unique to Indiana, as Catholic hospitals encompass one in six acute-care beds across the country; in Indiana that number is roughly one in four, which limits a women’s chance of finding comprehensive reproductive health care, thus putting her life in danger.

+ This Halloween, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt appointed several scarily controversial candidates to the Science Advisory Board (SAB), all of whom have openly opposed the very laws the EPA is designed to enforce. On top of this, Pruitt failed to renew terms for a handful of respected members and dismissed multiple independent scientists before their terms ended. Now, the number of polluter-friendly members in the SAB has more than doubled, which drastically undermines the integrity of this critical agency, jeopardizes the continuation of climate science and puts women’s health and safety under extreme danger. Women, who comprise about 80 percent of climate refugees and are responsible for most of the globe’s food production, are at once the most adversely and disproportionally impacted by climate change and environmental injustice.

+ In other environmental news, Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on stage during an interview on Thursday that fossil fuels prevent sexual assault, arguing that the burning of the combustible materials— despite emitting fatal levels of toxins into the atmosphere—will shine light “on those types of acts.” Such broken logic is offensive to both women and the environment, and is likely rooted in the same misconceptions that have taken up space amidst the recent avalanche of sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, George H.W. Bush and others. It is not a lack of lighting or clothing that wills men to assault women, but rather a culture that sexualizes and objectifies women while teaching men that their competency in the world hinges upon their capacity for superiority.



Jessica Merino is a former Ms. editorial intern.