The reality of the Donald Trump presidency is that policymakers, the press and the public spend all their time and energy understandably fixated on the most egregious actions and rhetoric from the administration. What’s alarming, though, is that as we expend all of our oxygen pushing back against the jailing of children, the shameless corruption or the daily assaults on the First Amendment, the administration is taking enormously disruptive actions that go virtually unseen or unnoticed.
On June 1, the Department of Health and Human Services officially unveiled a proposed rule that could have significant consequences for women’s health care. It is yet another front in the Republican Party’s ongoing war on women and it must be met with resistance and vigorous public debate.
The proposed rule, often called the “gag rule,” targets health care providers who perform abortions by withholding Title X (the National Family Planning Program) funds. This program was established in the 1970s to provide low-income women with as much information as possible so that they could make informed decisions about their reproductive health. Title X funds provide women with access to comprehensive counseling, treatment and critical health care services, including breast cancer screenings and HIV testing. In 2016, this program helped more than 4 million Americans, 55 percent of whom were uninsured.
Simply put, the Trump administration is trying to prevent providers from fully informing women about their health care options. To be clear, current law already prohibits the use of federal funds from being used by women for abortions. And yet, the proposed rule makes receiving Title X funds contingent on health care providers who offer abortions having fully separate staff, resources and facilities for their abortion services. Remember this the next time you hear Republicans gripe about the big, bad federal government trying to dictate how enterprises should go about their business.
Taking things a step further, the new proposal would also eliminate the requirement that Title X providers offer all forms of acceptable birth control, instead prioritizing what they characterize as “natural” family planning methods. The bottom line is the Trump administration is actively limiting health care options for women and low-income Title X patients. This isn’t an isolated incident ― it’s a pattern of behavior.
In February, a whistleblower contacted the House Oversight Committee and provided it with documents that exposed how the Trump administration’s efforts to allow states to terminate Planned Parenthood as a health care provider for Medicaid beneficiaries was orchestrated by the extreme right-wing, anti-choice group known as the Alliance Defending Freedom.
As detailed in a letter from Oversight Committee Democrats to HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan,
The documents provided by the whistleblower raise serious concerns about whether the Trump Administration is now taking orders from an extreme right-wing interest group that is trying to deny American citizens the ability to exercise their right to obtain family planning services from the provider of their choice, which is guaranteed by federal statute. In addition, the documents raise grave questions about the legitimacy of the Trump Administration’s letter to state Medicaid directors on January 19, which appears to be a clandestine effort to tip the scales of justice in favor of states that are targeting Planned Parenthood in violation of federal law.
Oversight Committee Democrats led by Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the party’s ranking member on the panel, discovered that in April,
The Trump Administration has scrubbed information about breast cancer, preventive services guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act, and various LGBTQ health issues from the Department’s website for the Office of Women’s Health. It is unclear why the Trump Administration would want women to have less information about their health care rather than more. Not only do the Trump Administration’s actions appear to violate the federal law that requires notice before restricting public information in this way, but they defy common sense.
If we’ve learned one thing about this president, it’s that he fears truth, rejects fact and preys on the ignorant to acquire power. The Washington Post tabulated that in 500 days, Trump had made more than 3,251 false or misleading claims. He knows that his biggest obstacle is an informed society. He is using the levers of government to prey on the most vulnerable in our society and in this case, limit their health care options and access to information.
Hidden behind every incendiary tweet or rhetorical distraction is the enactment of a radical policy agenda that carries the full weight and force of the federal government behind it and that will have a significant impact on a lot of lives.
At the end of the day, I couldn’t care less about the first lady’s jacket, I care much more about the active war on women being waged by her husband.
Kurt Bardella is a HuffPost columnist. He is a former spokesman and senior adviser for former House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) and Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter: @kurtbardella