On Sunday, Kellyanne Conway, President Trump's former campaign manager and current senior advisor, questioned the need for the Women's March, stating: "I frankly didn't see the point." (And, of course, conservative pundits took the high road on social media with gems like--my current personal favorite-- "I feel sorry for all the ham and cheese that won't get made into sandwiches while all those women are marching").
The "point," Ms. Conway? We were taking President Trump - the President who as a businessman, celebrity, and presidential candidate trafficked in misogyny-- at his word.
We need look no further than the President's emerging record on reproductive rights to know that it would be a grave mistake not to do so.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, then candidate Trump was questioned about his views on abortion. He responded, "The laws are set now on abortion and that's the way they're going to remain until they're changed." His spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, soon made devastatingly clear that Mr. Trump, if elected, would seek to dismantle Roe v. Wade and its progeny, saying, "Mr. Trump gave an accurate account of the law as it is today and made clear it must stay that way now -- until he is president. Then he will change the law through his judicial appointments and allow the states to protect the unborn." During his first few days on the job, President Trump began to make good on that campaign promise.
A mere three days after his inauguration, President Trump signed an executive order reinstating the "global gag rule." This policy prohibits certain U.S. federal funds from being used to aid any international organization that provides abortion care, referrals for abortion care, or even basic information about abortion care--even if they aren't using the U.S. funds for abortion provision or referrals. The policy forces international health organizations to make an untenable choice: forgo any U.S. funding, or agree not to even mention abortion when providing health services to, for example, HIV positive women or to women who are survivors of sexual assault.
President Trump's action was not in and of itself a surprise. Since the policy was enacted in 1984, it has been a political football: incoming presidents have either reinstated (President H. W. Bush and President G.W. Bush) or repealed (Presidents Clinton and Obama) the policy.
But President Trump didn't just reinstate the policy: he took the unprecedented step of radically expanding it. The global gag rule now applies to all U.S. global health funding, rather than just U.S. family planning funding. The impact on global health organizations (who provide services like prenatal care, HIV and AIDS prevention and testing, and Zika prevention ) -and the people they serve--will be nothing short of devastating; some experts estimate that it will impact $9.5 billion in U.S. foreign aid.
Make no mistake: The signing of this extremist executive order will not be an isolated act.
This is a President who has--and will continue to-- play politics with women's health. This is a President who will -as he promised--roll back the constitutional guarantee of access to safe abortion care. This is a President who chose as his Vice President a man who has led the crusade to defund Planned
Parenthood and who, as governor of Indiana, signed some of the nation's most restrictive anti-abortion bills into law. This is a president who has--after less than a week on the job--emboldened conservative members of Congress to introduce and pass federal legislation that would permanently bar any federal funding for abortion care.
He told us what he would do, and now he's doing it.
It is time to take President Trump at his word.