Jacob R. Costa
The issue of abortion has been a major subject of political and social debate in the United Stated for decades. After the election of current president, Donald Trump, reproductive rights activists expressed tremendous fear over what actions the new president would take on abortion. Having taken a strong anti-abortion stance during the presidential campaign, many believed that Donald Trump would move to impose tight restrictions on abortion or even try to completely outlaw it. Standing here now, over two years into Donald Trump’s first term as president, it appears as though their worst fears are being realized. Regardless of where one stands on the issue of abortion, it cannot be denied that the Trump administration poses a major threat to abortion rights in the United States.
In just a little over two years, President Trump has made severe policy moves to restrict abortion services, both on a foreign and domestic level. On January 23, 2017, President Trump both reinstated and expanded the infamous “Mexico City Policy” which prohibits foreign non-governmental organizations from receiving U.S. aid if they use their own funds to provide abortion services, refer patients to abortion providers, counsel patients on abortion, or even advocate for more liberal abortion laws. Human Rights Watch has estimated that President Trump’s expansion will tie up approximately $8.8 billion of U.S. global health assistance funds. At the domestic level, there is the issue of Planned Parenthood. As Trump had promised during his presidential campaign, he has taken measures to defund Planned Parenthood and groups like it. Earlier this month, the Trump administration introduced a new rule regarding federal funding of domestic health organizations: the rule officially bars any organization that provides abortion referrals from receiving funds under the federal family planning program, Title X. Though not a complete defunding of Planned Parenthood, this new rule will strike a severe blow to Planned Parenthood which, as the New York Times reports, typically receives $60 million dollars under Title X each year. Now, thanks to Trump implementing this rule, groups like Planned Parenthood that offer abortion referrals will be stripped of millions of dollars in funding while anti-abortion providers will become eligible for such funds. In observing these policies, it becomes clear that President Trump is actively pursuing unprecedented restrictions on abortion and aims to push this agenda even further.
There are already signs that President Trump’s two Supreme Court picks, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, are going to vote in favor of restrictions on abortion. According to the Washington Post, both Justices voted in favor of a Louisiana law that required doctors at abortion clinics within the state to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Should this law be implemented, Louisiana would be left with one abortion clinic in the entire state. While the Supreme Court did rule against that legislation, the point remains that this case shows the willingness of President Trump’s appointees to vote in favor of abortion restrictions.
Many states have taken the threat of Roe V. Wade being overturned very seriously. The Rhode Island House of Representatives recently passed the Reproductive Health Care Act, which codifies Roe V. Wade as state law. New York has already passed a similar law, and the Washington Times is reporting that the states of New Mexico, Vermont, and Virginia are likely to do the same in the near future. I can say that I have personally witnessed the fear surrounding the Trump administration’s stance on abortion and the fact that a conservative majority now runs the Supreme Court. As an intern working for the Rhode Island House of Representatives, I was present for much of the debate surrounding Rhode Island’s recent bill. It was my observation, from my many conversations with the state representatives who supported this bill, that they believe there to be a great threat to Roe V. Wade, and that the uncertainty caused by the Trump administration was a primary reason why many of the bill’s supporters advocated for its passage.
The threat is real. The administration of President Donald Trump has the makings to become one of the most anti-abortion administrations in modern American history. While much criticism has been levied at President Trump in regards to whether or not he’s been able to keep his campaign promises, he’s certainly following through on his promises to restrict abortion access. With a hardline anti-abortion agenda and a conservative majority on the Supreme Court (a majority that might yet increase), it is in no way safe to assume that the right to safe and legal abortion in the United States is permanently secure.
Human Rights Watch: https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/02/14/trumps-mexico-city-policy-or-global-gag-rule
Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-on-5-to-4-vote-blocks-restrictive-louisiana-abortion-law/2019/02/07/a90742dc-2656-11e9-81fd-b7b05d5bed90_story.html?utm_term=.0536b6d8b7e2