Even before he added Mike Pence to his ticket, we already knew that the Donald Trump was unprincipled-to-wacky when it came to his stances on women’s sexual health. Now, thanks to a leaked administration wish list, we know a little more about Team Trump’s beliefs and archaic views on women’s reproductive health.
The list, obtained by Crooked Media, was meant to be circulated internally. Brian Beutler notes that the list highlights how much of the administration’s policy is driven by Islamophobia, even policy that doesn’t have anything to do with travel.
For our purposes, let’s focus on how the document treats women. The memo suggests the World Health Organization doesn’t actually promote health, and advises there should be cuts to the U.S. government’s “gender and ‘Let Girls Learn’ initiative.” “Instead,” the document reads, “start the Child Rape elimination initiative that we’re going to try to work up through an interagency process.”
The spectre of sexual abuse by Muslim men has long been used by those pushing an Islamophobic agenda to drum up fear of immigration. The administration’s sudden concern for women would feel less disingenuous if the Trump administration cared about sexual assaults committed by anybody who wasn’t brown (perhaps by somebody who was more, uh, orange, for starters), but as it stands, this concern trolling is very of-the-Breitbart-playbook.
The real show starts when they get into their kooky beliefs about birth control.
If the Trump administration got its way, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) budget for family planning would be slashed, with “no other family planning programming for girls except fertility awareness methods.” Lapsed Catholics should remember the phrase “fertility awareness” from confirmation class; it’s just a scienced-up term for “the rhythm method,” a form of birth control that doesn’t work for one-quarter of couples who use it.
Title X funding, which helps poor women afford contraception, would be slashed in half if Team Trump gets its way. Money would be diverted from sex education that emphasizes “risk reduction” and instead flow toward “sexual risk avoidance,” which is another term for “abstinence-only education.” Abstinence-only education doesn’t work. A report published this year declared the practice both “ineffective and unethical.”
The Title X money could also be diverted into childcare programs, or fertility awareness education. Women who want to be on birth control do not want childcare programs. They want to not be pregnant. That’s why they’re on birth control. They also would not like to learn about “fertility awareness,” a form of birth control that is much less effective than other, better forms of birth control the Trump administration would like us to pretend have not been invented.
For how stupid it is to promote “fertility awareness” over real contraception, let’s consider a theoretical model of car. Let’s say this car was, for 75 percent of the people who drove it, perfectly safe. But let’s say that for 25 percent of people who drove it for a year, the car would crash completely without warning and its driver would require hospitalization to recover. Promoting that car over an alternative car that crashed for, say, 0.01 percent of people (that’s the fail rate for a hormonal IUD) is fucking insane. So would telling people who didn’t want to drive the crashing car to perhaps, rather than getting a safer vehicle, simply not drive at all. That’s the Trump administration’s stance on birth control.
According to the document, a federal program designed to prevent teen pregnancy “needs to be defunded as it has not worked, there is no positive evidence and some negative evidence.” Teen pregnancy in the U.S. just reached its lowest point since records were initially kept. So have abortion rates. That means that teens are either having much less sex than they were before or are not getting pregnant in the first place. Experts believe that the drop in teen fertility and abortion rates is due to greater availability of long term birth control and comprehensive sex education. What the government has done to bring us to this point is absolutely effective.
Donald Trump lived a life of hedonism in the 1980s and 1990s. If tabloid reports at the time are to be believed, the future president plowed his way through a portfolio’s worth of models and starlets. He even managed to drive a weird mini-news cycle with reports that he made all of his sexual partners take an AIDS test before he’d bless them with his sexual company. Karen Pence’s first husband, before she married Vice President Mike, helped invent Cialis, a drug that helps men who have difficulty experiencing sexual arousal achieve erections.
That men should have medically-assisted access to consequence-free sex while women are misled into punishment for the same actions encapsulates this administration’s stunning hypocrisy on sexual health. (Also, hi, Ivanka! Where the fuck are you?)
Women can at least hope that this administration’s ineptitude when it comes to health care, tax reform, the border wall, every multilateral deal Trump threatened to pull out of, and every other major policy Trump has threatened to enact means that they’ll also have trouble creating the unplanned pregnancy hellscape of this wish list’s dreams. Trump being bad at his job might be the last thing that keeps American women safe from this pre-sexual revolution wish list.