President Donald Trump enters his first full week in the White House to lead the most anti-abortion administration in modern U.S. history — one he created no less.
The question surrounding the Trump-Pence administration is not if its members will attempt to erode women’s rights and encroach on their personal autonomy—it’s when, how and in what order.
Trump’s Cabinet nominees collectively hold the strongest anti-abortion record of any that came before them. Their actions include passing legislation limiting access to abortion, serving on boards of anti-abortion groups and advocating against funding for Planned Parenthood. It’s clear that opposition to abortion rights in the executive branch has never been so deliberate and threatening to women across the country.
Let’s start with Trump’s first pick—our vice president and lifelong opponent of reproductive rights, Mike Pence. Pence has spent his career working to make abortion illegal, imprison doctors who provide abortion services for women and ban some of the most widely-used forms of contraception. As Governor, he failed to pardon a woman serving time for ending her pregnancy at home. Punishing and jailing more women is the logical consequence of what he says he wants – to see Roe v. Wade in the “ash heap of history.” That kind of rhetoric jeopardizes the long-standing judicial tradition of respecting precedent and puts women at risk by setting a national tone that will likely embolden politicians at the local level who seek to strip away abortion rights.
Next is Trump’s pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions. His record of discrimination goes beyond just racial rhetoric, and includes his decades-long pursuit of eliminating access to abortion for women nationwide—challenging their ability to plan and control their economic futures. Sessions has supported a 20-week ban, as well as measures to defund Planned Parenthood. He has also opposed measures to protect clinics from anti-abortion violence. This is an ominous sign, given the fact that the Attorney General is in charge of enforcing the FACE Act and other measures to protect clinic staff and facilities.
Meanwhile, at the Labor Department, secretary nominee Andrew Puzder also has a long history with anti-abortion schemes. Most notably, Puzder authored the Missouri abortion law upheld by the Supreme Court in its 1989 Webster v. Reproductive Health Services decision, which allowed states to impose far more restrictions on abortion care than previously permitted under Roe v. Wade.
Then there’s Tom Price, Trump’s pick to lead Health and Human Services, who sets off a chorus of alarms when it comes to women’s autonomy. A licensed physician, Price has participated in efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, co-sponsored an extreme “personhood” bill in 2005 and 2007 and, more recently in 2015, a 20-week abortion ban based on junk science. He is also a fierce opponent of the Affordable Care Act and its birth-control benefit, which requires insurers to cover FDA-approved contraceptive methods, even going so far as to make ridiculous claims that “there’s not one” woman without access to contraception already. Now, with jurisdiction to hack away at reproductive rights through his dominion over HHS, Price threatens to rewind back to the days when access to abortion and reproductive healthcare was merely a pipe dream.
Beyond these picks, one might be surprised to find a consistency of anti-abortion opinion that isn’t necessarily expected from the heads of agencies that don’t historically deal with federal anti-abortion measures. For example, Ben Carson at Housing and Urban Development and Betsy DeVos at the Department of Education, Rick Perry at the Energy Department and Nikki Haley at the United Nations all have track records of anti-abortion efforts and opinions.
These are just a few examples in the ever-lengthening catalog of oppressions the Trump-Pence administration threatens to inflict on millions of women and people who have abortions across the country.
But the peril for women under the Trump-Pence administration doesn’t end there.
With at least one, possibly more, Supreme Court appointments occurring during Trump’s tenure, and nearly 100 federal judicial vacancies to fill in the near-term, the damage that can be done by history’s most anti-abortion administration extends well beyond Trump’s time in office.
Further, it’s a misguided delusion to believe that Ivanka – who holds an unelected and un-appointed capacity in the White House – will have any moderating influence on Mr. Trump when it comes to abortion. Mr. Trump’s lock-step alignment with anti-abortion groups since the election and his hand-selected Cabinet of anti-abortion cronies further hardens the notion that abortion rights are going to come under fire during the Trump-Pence administration.
If Donald Trump wants to be the president of all Americans, that means being the president for those 1 in 3 women who will have an abortion in this country. But, the fact of the matter remains that stacking the administration with anti-choice zealots in key positions risks eradicating the final protection that women have had from the federal government.
So, while Trump may yet seize on a women’s issue based in reality, one thing is clear –- it’s not likely to be conceived during a Cabinet meeting.