Note: Originally published on NBCNews.com.
On February 12, the Trump administration released its budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2019 and unsurprisingly, it is an unmitigated disaster for abortion rights and reproductive health.
The proposed budget, which serves as an indication of the president’s priorities for the coming year, contains historic, sweeping (and sadly predictable) cuts aimed at women’s health in a number of ways: attacking Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid, defunding Planned Parenthood, funneling money to abstinence-only programs and slashing international family planning funding.
Least shocking is the budget’s efforts to repeal the ACA, which would deal a major blow to women’s health. Currently, Obamacare affords significant preventive care benefits for women, including no-cost contraception coverage. This has been a godsend for millions of American women — according to the Center For American Progress, 62.4 million gained access to birth control coverage thanks to the ACA, saving women an estimated $1.4 billion in out-of-pocket costs in the first year alone — but is now in jeopardy. Again. (Last year, Trump tried to eliminate the ACA requirement that all health insurance plans cover birth control, but a federal judge halted the order.)
Additionally, Trump’s budget would substantially cutMedicaid funding, which 13 million American women of reproductive age rely on for family planning, STI testing and treatment and pregnancy-related care. According to the Guttmacher Institute, Medicaid accounts for 75% of all public dollars spent on family planning in the U.S., which helped women avoid nearly two million unintended pregnancies in 2014. It stands to reason that large cuts to Medicaid would likely result in an increase of unplanned pregnancies — and thus, the need for abortion care.
But abortion funds, of course, are also off the table. The proposed budget would impose strict abortion coverage restrictions, effectively defunding Planned Parenthood thanks to “provisions prohibiting certain abortion providers from receiving Federal funds from HHS, including those that receive funding under the Title X Family Planning program and Medicaid, among other HHS programs.”
Instead, the administration has proposed $75 million for abstinence-only programs, despite their proven ineffectiveness. What’s more, the budget allocates zero dollars for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPP), a national, evidence-based program that funds organizations working to prevent teen pregnancy across the U.S. This cut comes on the heels of the Trump administration’s announcement in July 2017 that it was cutting over $200 million in grants administered through the TPP.
Yes, there is more. Trump also wants to slash funding for international family planning by 50 percent, while simultaneously prohibiting any U.S. global health funds from supporting organizations that support or provide abortion services, putting women’s health in danger, not just in America, but around the world.
In other words, the Trump administration is willing to invest in telling girls to keep their legs shut, but not in actual reproductive health care or prevention programs. This approach is proven to be bad policy. It also defies logic.
“The Trump-Pence administration’s plan lays out an agenda that will be harmful to people’s health and lives,” said Dana Singiser, vice president of public policy and government affairs for Planned Parenthood in a statement. “The budget reveals the Trump-Pence administration’s roadmap for blocking women’s access to birth control and other preventive care, dismantling programs like Medicaid, and imposing extreme ideological beliefs on all people.”
Sadly, none of this comes as a surprise. Trump and his ideologically driven appointees openly rebuke science and facts — Teresa Manning, Trump’s pick to run HHS family planning programs believes “that “contraception doesn’t work” — and have proven time and again that women’s lives matter less, if at all. And, the president’s budget is but the latest in a long line of attacks on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Indeed, during his first year in office, Trump has gone out of his way to restrict access to reproductive health care. From reinstating and expanding the Global Gag Rule — on his very first day in office — to shielding anti-choice health workers, attempting to roll back former President Barack Obama’s birth control mandate, and ending financial support of the UNFPA, the United Nations agency tasked with providing maternal and child health services in more than 150 countries, he has repeatedly asserted his disdain for women’s bodily autonomy.
But why? After all, in 1999 he went on the record claiming to be “very pro-choice,” and as recently as August 2016, he took five different positions on abortion in three days. On a basic level, Trump is pandering to his anti-choice base and making good on his campaign promises to erode abortion rights. However, the bigger picture is much darker.
Strong, independent women are a threat to the power and authority of men like Trump, as well as the patriarchal systems that enable them. And what is the ultimate source of women’s physical and socioeconomic empowerment? Self-determination, realized in large part through the ability to determine if and when to bear children.
“When Congress tried to pursue similar policies, they failed because of unprecedented grassroots opposition from the American people,” said Singiser. “Now the administration is using its power to advance an even more harmful agenda.”
Other experts agree. “Budgets reflect priorities, and this budget makes clear that Donald Trump’s is to keep punishing women,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America national communications director Kaylie Hanson Long in a statement. “This proposal presents a vision for our country that restricts reproductive freedom and decreases economic security for women and families.”
It remains to be seen whether Congress will pass Trump’s budget, but one thing is certain: The Trump-Pence administration seems willing to go to extreme lengths to undermine reproductive health care and abortion rights.