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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Women’s March anticipates new era in women’s health

BRIANA NGO / AGGIE

New administration poses fundamental threats to women’s rights

Just one day after Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, millions of women took to the streets. They marched in Washington, Los Angeles, New York, Rome, Paris, Seoul, Tokyo, Bucharest, Bangkok and even Antarctica — uniting against one man who represents much of what’s wrong with society’s treatment of women today.

Turnout was even larger than expected, and the march clearly showcased that party ideologies don’t necessarily unify us — we are stronger when we believe in a common cause. Of all the minorities that Trump has slandered, women are the largest, and inclusive of every other group. Women come in all ages, sizes, colors and sexual orientations, but we all deserve equal rights to live and make decisions about our own bodies.

From his past interactions with women, his vicious campaign against what would have been the first female presidency and his recent Twitter attacks on prominent female figures like former Fox anchor Megyn Kelly, the President’s attitude towards women leaves much to be desired. During his presidential campaign, Trump hardly, if ever, addressed women’s issues.

However, his actions reek of misogyny, sexism and the degradation of women to mere “objects” for the purposes of male gratification. While his views on women’s healthcare and social issues are inconsistent, during his campaign he promised to nominate anti-abortion justices and defund Planned Parenthood. He also promised to make the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal money from being used to fund abortions, permanent. Coupled with his effort to repeal Obamacare, Trump’s government could likely take away crucial health care from millions of people.

So far, he has only appealed to his female voters by making his daughter Ivanka the face of his campaign for women. Polished and suave, she brought up issues like maternity leave and childcare and promised that her father would push for equal pay for equal work. She cited her own business dealings and holds herself up as an example for what her father wishes to accomplish but doesn’t realize that her lifestyle is only possible because of the privileges she has had.

From Trump’s first days in office, it’s clear where his priorities lie. The appointment of Mike Pence as Vice President, a politician who notoriously tried to pass a blanket ban on abortion in his home state of Indiana, clearly indicates which way the government is headed in regard to women’s health and social issues.

Trump reinstated Ronald Reagan’s “global gag rule,” which stops all federal aid to foreign nonprofits that facilitate or talk about abortion. This includes the United Nations (UN), which gets most of its funding from the U.S. This time, the order not only affects the U.S., but millions of girls and women around the world who depend on the help offered by the UN. Many developing countries are far too poor to afford family planning services, and the UN’s programs are a lifeline to the rural communities in these countries. The LGBTQIA community in developing countries is also adversely affected, especially in countries where people believe that rape is a “cure” for homosexuality, thereby creating many unwanted pregnancies due to sexual assault.  Perhaps the worst effect of this “gag” order is on those affected by HIV, AIDS and the Zika virus. While it has always been difficult to provide assistance for underserved communities, it may become obsolete when there is a lack of funds. Without access to contraceptives and counseling services, women will remain at a much higher risk of contracting and spreading diseases.

If Trump repeals the Affordable Care Act, the government’s next priority could be to defund Planned Parenthood. Established in 1916, Planned Parenthood has its roots from the first-ever women’s health clinic started by Margaret Sanger, a notable birth control activist. Since then, it has provided services for women including not only birth control, but also cancer screenings, STD tests, abortions and general medical care. Planned Parenthood is estimated to perform at least half of all legal abortions in the U.S. In the political debate over legal abortion, the system and safety net for family planning and cancer prevention might just become collateral damage.

Trump has made it clear that policies affecting women’s health are a priority to him — but the actual health of women is not. Whichever direction the Trump administration decides to go, it should consider that we’re all human and deserve equal rights that allow us to live our lives the way we want. Trump may not like women making decisions, but we certainly don’t like him making our decisions for us either.

Written by: Shohini Maitra — samaitra@ucdavis.edu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.

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