As President-elect Donald Trump announces more members of his male-dominated administration, women’s rights advocates are increasingly concerned about reproductive rights in the U.S. and in developing countries around the world.
Trump paid little attention to women’s issues during the campaign, focusing rather on investing in infrastructure, renegotiating trade agreements, tightening immigration laws and repealing the Affordable Care Act. He has shrugged off criticism from feminists by assuring voters that nobody respects women more than he does.
Even if criminalizing abortion is not at the top of his agenda, however, women’s rights advocates said there is more than enough reason to worry about the accessibility of abortion, birth control and other services for women in the U.S.
“It’s not just whether or not, on paper, we’re told that the service is available to us,” said Rebecca Dennis, legislative policy analyst at the reproductive rights organization PAI, in an interview with Humanosphere. “It’s whether or not women can actually get to the clinics, whether or not the clinics can actually provide those services in a safe and effective way.”
At the state level, she added, many of these clinics are already becoming much less efficient in controlling wait times and scheduling time-sensitive appointments.
But in terms of reproductive rights, many advocates are more deeply concerned about Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Throughout his career, Pence has been a vocal and active backer of anti-women and anti-reproductive-rights legislation and regulations. As governor of Indiana he co-sponsored legislation that would allow hospitals to deny women abortion access even in life-threatening situations, and in Congress he introduced the Pence amendment to defund Planned Parenthood.
Pence has made it clear that overturning Roe vs. Wade is a top priority for him.
“While Mr. Trump may not yet have a governing record on the health and rights of women and girls, Mr. Pence certainly does,” said Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), in a statement. “It’s long, it’s clear and it’s hostile to women, science, and human rights.”
“Make no mistake,” she said, “a Trump/Pence Administration is a threat to the health and rights of women and girls in the U.S. and globally.”
Reproductive rights advocates also warned that Trump’s administration could harm women in developing countries and in humanitarian settings around the world.
One of the top concerns is the possibility that lawmakers could reinstate the Global Gag Rule, a U.S. policy that forbids U.S. foreign aid for family planning to go to any group that uses non-U.S. funds for abortion. This restriction affects any work for abortion advocacy, referral to safe abortion services, or even counseling women about their choices during unsafe or unwanted pregnancies.
Advocates said it is very likely we will see the Global Gag Rule reinstated early on in the next administration. Pence joined House Republicans in an attempt to reinstate the Global Gag Rule in 2011, after it was rescinded by President Barack Obama in 2009.
Dennis also warned that U.S. funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), one of the largest multilateral family planning providers in the world, is in jeopardy. The organization is often one of the only agencies on the ground providing such services in humanitarian situations, and the U.S. is one of its largest donors.
With so few women being considered for top posts in Trump’s administration, Dennis said advocates must do everything to make their voices heard as critical policy decisions are made.
“There’s a lot that advocates can be doing,” said Dennis. “[to]be in touch with their own elected officials, particularly their [members of Congress], who will be making a lot of these critical funding decisions within the next year, as well as helping to support organizations like PAI and other organizations around the world to defend these rights for women.”