In his first three days in office, President Trump cut off funding to all international health care groups that provide — or even refer or counsel women — on abortion. The impact of reinstating and expanding the Global Gag Rule will be to deny some of the world’s poorest women the health care they need. The president’s action will result in suffering and will have terrible consequences for women and children. That he was surrounded by a group of white men when he took this action only added insult to injury.
Without question, the optics were horrible. But this is about much more than optics. It’s about the Trump administration’s agenda — about a president who has appointed the least diverse cabinet — the whitest and most male cabinet — and the most anti-woman cabinet — in a generation. From gutting the Affordable Care Act to undermining reproductive health care to weakening workplace protections to opposing measures to stop sexual violence, Trump’s nominees have stood outside the mainstream and against the interests of women. Women must be vigilant and we must resist.
Affordable Care Act
Let’s start with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has made a tremendous difference in women’s lives by providing health coverage to millions and requiring insurance plans to cover services such as gynecological checkups and birth control without co-pays. The ACA also outlawed gender discrimination in pricing and discriminatory policies such as denying coverage simply because a woman had survived breast cancer or given birth by cesarean section.
Despite its effectiveness in improving women’s health and economic security, two of Trump’s nominees, Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee Rep. Tom Price and Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions, have stubbornly opposed the ACA and repeatedly tried to repeal the law. Rep. Price also wants to eliminate provisions that guarantee maternity care and contraception without co-pays. Trump’s nominees for budget director, CIA director and interior secretary all voted for repeal — and to defund Planned Parenthood.
Even Trump’s nominees who never served in Congress have been enemies of women’s health. Trump’s nominee for labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, has been an outspoken critic of the ACA and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley refused Medicaid funds that would have helped more women in her state afford coverage.
Trump’s nominees have been unrelenting in working to undermine women’s constitutional right to abortion. Sessions called Roe v. Wade one of the most “erroneous decisions of all time” and even opposed legislation to protect the safety of abortion providers and patients. Price co-sponsored legislation that would outlaw abortion, stem cell research, some forms of contraception and in vitro fertilization; he also voted to ban abortion care as early as 20 weeks and to deny coverage to low-income women.
Puzder was the architect of a Missouri law designed to dismantle Roe v. Wade. Haley signed South Carolina’s 20-week abortion ban. Trump’s education secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos, has donated millions to anti-choice causes and his HUD secretary, Ben Carson, ran for president on an anti-abortion platform.
Trump’s cabinet nominees are also deeply hostile to women’s rights in the workplace. When they served in Congress, Sessions and Price voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which helps women who discover they are being paid less than their male counterparts challenge the discrimination in court. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, a former secretary of labor, has opposed raising the minimum wage and the Paycheck Fairness Act.
And since Puzder became CEO of their parent company, Carl’s Jr. and Hardees have been sued for employment discrimination under federal law more than any other major burger chain. Women employees at the chain, which notoriously uses sexualized images of scantily clad women in its ads, have testified about unwanted sexual behavior while on the job. Some 60 percent of Wage and Hour Division investigations of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants found at least one violation of wage and hour rules — and Puzder has spoken out against fair overtime pay, a higher minimum wage and ensuring universal access to paid family and medical leave.
Fighting sexual violence has long been a nonpartisan issue. The Violence Against Women Act, which protects women from domestic and sexual violence, passed with bipartisan support in 1994 and was reauthorized with bipartisan support several times since. Yet four Trump nominees who served in Congress when it was reauthorized in 2013 voted against it. Several of these men are slated to lead agencies charged with helping enforce or implement this essential law.
These are just a few examples of the disturbing positions Trump nominees hold on issues vital to women — and the Global Gag Rule is a harbinger of the kinds of policies they will surely try to advance.
As Congress completes the confirmation process, and more and more of these nominees take their posts, we all have a responsibility to keep our eyes on all the ways agency actions can diminish women’s equal rights, health and economic security.
We will need to make our voices heard through calls and letters to our elected officials, protests in Washington and across the country and standing in solidarity with other groups that advocate for the values we believe in. We cannot allow the priorities of an anti-woman cabal to prevail. Now more than ever, each of us must be vigilant and active.