On day 941 of its existence, the Trump administration scored a major victory in its war on women, and their ability to care for and control their own bodies, when it bullied Planned Parenthood out of the Title X program, the federal government’s primary funding stream for low-income women’s reproductive health care.
The acting president of Planned Parenthood, Alexis McGill Johnson, explained Monday: “When you have an unethical rule that will limit what providers can tell our patients, it becomes really important that we not agree to be in the program.”
And that is exactly what the Department of Health’s new rules, implemented this year, do, by prohibiting any recipient of Title X money from referring patients to abortion providers, except in cases of rape, incest, or medical emergency.
The group gave up about $60 million a year in funding—not one dollar of which had gone to abortions, but had in fact paid for wellness exams and STD screenings, birth control and family planning, and preventive health services for 1.5 million low-income women annually—in a huge win for Republicans who have long fantasized about crushing the group that they imagine does nothing but provide endless, on-demand abortions.
Of course, the irony is that while this administration is against women having the choice to terminate a pregnancy, it is also (just slightly less aggressively) against low-income women having access to reproductive health education and contraception.
This is why the mostly irony-free Christian right has turned the other cheek when it comes to draft-dodging Donald Trump boasting about STDs as his “personal Vietnam” and paying off porn stars, while ignoring or attacking the many women who say that he has sexually assaulted them. They see Trump—who favored legal abortions right up until he needed to court votes and started talking in 2016 about needing “some form of punishment” for women who have them—as a soldier now in their fight to save the unborn, who they are concerned with far above and beyond the women who are trying to control their own lives and avert unplanned pregnancies. For the religious right, fetuses are far more important than the humans they are housed in.
The same rule changes that pushed Planned Parenthood out of providing health services to lower-income women, many of them black and Hispanic, also allow faith-based organizations opposed to abortion to receive a share of the $260 million Title X gives out annually.
It’s almost funny how the party of Ben Facts Don’t Care About Your Feelings Shapiro becomes very sensitive when it comes to inconvenient facts, making special rules to protect their feelings. When they don’t like the science, they silence the scientists.
The new Title X rules are where Trump’s war on women connects with his war on science, as scientists are blocked from disclosing their findings about climate change and religious belief now takes priority over medical knowledge.
I’m old enough to remember when church and state were supposed to be separate, but Trump needs his evangelicals for re-election, and this move toward religion and away from science is a deliberate one.
Where previous Republican administrations had been suspicious of scientists, under a Birther president who flirts with anti-vaccination lunacy and hates environmental regulations, and is desperate to do whatever it takes to maintain the support of his remaining true believers, things are getting very ugly, very fast now, with more surely to come.