Ivanka’s got a new female empowerment book, and Dad’s going to war against women. Great week, gang.
In just the past few days, the Trump administration has taken steps to restrict health insurance coverage for contraceptives, while bullying the House into passing legislation that could send insurance rates for maternal health care soaring. Meanwhile, the president picked a new official to disseminate the administration’s thoughts about public health, and it’s a woman who believes that abortions cause breast cancer.
Triple score for the extreme right. I believe in hockey they call that a hat trick.
And wait, there’s more: Trump’s reported choice to run the government’s programs on family planning is someone who doesn’t believe contraception works. And of course that House-passed health care bill is going to defund Planned Parenthood. The measure now goes to the Senate, where Republicans have put together a special 13-man committee to draft their version.
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It was, at minimum, deeply ironic that while all this was happening, Ivanka Trump released a book that calls on readers to fight against “barriers that disproportionately affect women” at work. Everybody who thinks unwanted pregnancies are a barrier, please raise your hands.
Under normal circumstances, we’d give Ivanka’s slim tome, “Women Who Work,” a pass. Or link you to Jennifer Senior’s review in The New York Times, which calls it “not really offensive so much as witlessly derivative.” It’s stuffed with obvious tips and multitudinous inspirational quotes on leadership, one of which comes from John Quincy Adams, an unsuccessful president whom nobody liked. His wife was so empowered she wrote a White House memoir titled “Adventures of a Nobody.” One of his sons called him “the Iron Mask.” Do you think Ivanka’s a John Quincy Adams fan? Or has another Trump ghostwriter been over-Googling?
Ivanka’s a major power in the administration, and she ought to be mobilizing support for things like easy access to contraceptives. “Women Who Work” isn’t exactly aimed at the people who have problems paying for their prescriptions – its target readers need tips on massage priorities and getting the nanny to send Mom pictures of how the kids are spending their day. But she’s not witless and she obviously knows that birth control plays an important role in working women’s lives. You think she’d put in a word.
No sign. The president has directed departments like health and human services to consider whether the government should allow employers who cite religious objections to cut contraceptives out of their health care plans. What do you think said agencies will decide? Here’s a hint: The new head of HHS, Tom Price, is a guy who once claimed there was “not one” woman who had ever had a problem paying for birth control on her own. (Getting an intrauterine device implanted can cost $1,000 in some parts of the country.)
The reproductive rights war is always promoted publicly as a battle against abortion. But many religious conservatives hate birth control in general. Some just want to stop sex outside of marriage. Some don’t believe even married couples should use artificial methods like pills or condoms. Some believe that all fertilized eggs are humans and that many forms of contraception, from IUDs to morning-after pills, cause the equivalent of murder. It’s a theological principle that most Americans don’t accept. “Personhood” amendments giving the eggs constitutional rights have been defeated even in very conservative states.
Yet the president has just named, as one of the top officials in HHS, a woman who believes IUDs kill. Charmaine Yoest described intrauterine devices to Emily Bazelon in a Times interview as having “life-ending properties.” Yoest, who’s going to be assistant secretary for public affairs, also refuses to consider whether increased access to contraception will actually help reduce abortion rates. It would, she told PBS, “be, frankly, carrying water for the other side to allow them to redefine the issue in that way.”
Teresa Manning, a former official at National Right to Life, is said to be Trump’s pick for another high post at HHS, deputy assistant secretary for – are you ready? – population affairs. Manning, who, like Yoest, has argued that abortions cause breast cancer, is going to be in charge of all federal family planning programs. She’s the one who once claimed in a radio interview that “contraception doesn’t work.” The idea that “contraception would always prevent the conception” was, she said, “preposterous.”
Nobody thinks these appointees reflect Trump’s own personal convictions, and the president doesn’t need to go this far to satisfy his voter base. It’s just that he doesn’t care and figures he can concede to the ultraright on women’s reproductive issues in return for stuff he really wants. So he’s working toward a world where low-income women won’t be able to afford contraceptives. And aren’t allowed to have an abortion if they get pregnant. Where there’s no Planned Parenthood to go to for help, or insurance to cover prenatal care or delivery.
Other than that, no problem.