Donald Trump made some pretty scary threats during the election about cracking down on abortion. Here’s a quick refresher on his campaign promises — and why women have every right to be very worried.
Image: Edson Chilundo/Flickr
Trump has flip-flopped on abortion, and seems to have adopted a rather extreme stance on the issue. Back in 1999 on an episode of “Meet the Press”, Trump said he “hated” abortion, but being from New York, admitted that he is “pro-choice in every respect”. Fast forward to the recently concluded election, and it’s clear that Trump has changed his tune. In a September 2016 letter addressed to “Pro-Life Leader”, Trump made his position on abortion painfully clear, saying he’s committed to:
- Nominating pro-life justices to the US Supreme Court
- Signing into law the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would end painful late-term abortions nationwide
- Defunding Planned Parenthood as long as it continues to perform abortions, and reallocating its funding to community health centres that provide comprehensive health care for women
- Making the Hyde Amendment permanent law to protect taxpayers from having to pay for abortions
Earlier this year, Trump said that abortions are "not acceptable", and that women who try to obtain them should be subject "to some form of punishment". Following a public outcry, Trump backtracked on his remarks, saying it's not women who should be punished for having an abortion, but the doctors who perform the procedure.
As noted in his September letter, and as he remarked during the final presidential debate on October 19, Trump is particularly opposed to so-called "partial-birth" abortions, or what doctors call intact dilation and extraction. According to US federal law, this late-term procedure is acceptable if the life of the mother is at stake. But during the last debate, Trump didn't seem to care, saying, "in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother," adding that it can happen "as late as one or two or three or four days prior to birth."
But as noted by the Guttmacher Institute, 90 per cent of all abortions take place within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. A mere 1.5 per cent of abortions take place beyond the 20 week mark, the vast majority of which happen before the 24 week mark. Thankfully, this issue won't affect most women, but that's small consolation for those whose lives might depend on it.
The Trump Administration's approach to Planned Parenthood in particular is all but certain to be a nightmare. The organisation provides services for millions of women (and men), including sexual education and reproductive healthcare. But that hasn't done much to thwart a largely Republican effort to completely strip it of resources and power. It's a coordinated campaign that's been taking place at the Congressional level for some time now; a Trump administration could bring an entirely new dimension of power into the mix.
Mike Pence, in particular, has consistently positioned himself as an opponent to the organisation. In October, during a speech at Liberty University, he promised that "a Trump-Pence administration will defund Planned Parenthood and redirect those dollars to women's health care that doesn't provide abortion services". In 2011, the House of Representatives passed a bill co-sponsored by Pence to defund the group.
"He's been called a one-man crusade against Planned Parenthood, and he got his start going after them earlier than most. I would definitely call him an extremist," Jan Schakowsky, a Democratic representative for Illinois, told the Guardian in July.
Following Trump's victory yesterday, pro-life activists cheered. It's an ominous sign of what's to come, though public opposition will be formidable. "Trump would ban abortion, and eliminate women's ability to have birth control covered by health insurance," noted Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, in a CNN article. "A Trump presidency would be a disaster for women."
Indeed, Trump could threaten women's procreative liberties by making it much more difficult to acquire birth control. As it stands, birth-control pills are free under the Affordable Care Act, but Trump says he wants Congress to repeal this act as soon as possible. In the very near future, it could be more difficult for women to avoid getting pregnant and getting an abortion. It suddenly feels like the 19th century.
American pro-choice women are not going to relinquish their right to an abortion without a fight. What's more, Trump and his Supreme Court justices will have their hands full trying to repeal or find loopholes to Roe V. Wade, the precedent that upholds a woman's right to an abortion.
Yes, women have a right to be worried, but it may be more difficult -- and politically damaging -- for Trump to go through with his threats. Sadly, this is a man that doesn't seem to care about the consequences.
Additional reporting by Sophie Kleeman.