Trump, abortion and women's health
© Getty Images

Forty-four years ago this month, the US Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade affirmed the right of women to seek an abortion without the threat of criminal prosecution. Today Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpA better VA, with mental health services, is essential for America's veterans Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit MORE, his emerging administration, and the Congress elected with him pose the most drastic threat ever to the ability of every woman to make decisions about her own body guided by her own religious, moral, and ethical beliefs.

The assault on women’s autonomy will likely begin with three anti-abortion actions. Republicans in Congress have pledged to go after the funding Planned Parenthood receives to provide healthcare to 2.5 million people through Medicaid. Eliminating that funding will close Planned Parenthood clinics across the country that now provide mammograms, access to birth control, testing, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, cancer screenings, and routine health care.

ADVERTISEMENT

For many, the clinics are their sole source of health care. No federal money is spent on abortion care, but opponents are not swayed by such facts. The majority in Congress is expected to put the Planned Parenthood ban into a budget bill that will only require a majority vote to end funding.

A second threat is that Trump will nominate an anti-abortion Supreme Court justice to the seat now vacant because of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. That seat was rightfully President Obama’s to fill, but his moderate nominee was stonewalled by the Senate GOP majority. During Trump’s campaign, he released a list of prospective justices that “dazzles conservatives,” according to CNN.

All are expected to take issue with Roe, which survives to this day by one vote on the high court. It will take an intense struggle in the Senate and the survival of the filibuster to turn back this threat.

A third immediate danger to women’s health will be an attempt to enshrine the Hyde Amendment in federal law permanently.

The Hyde Amendment bans certain uses of federal funds to pay for abortion coverage in a variety of health care programs run by the federal government, from those who access health care through government insurance programs or directly by using Medicaid or veterans’ healthcare, among others.

One in six women of reproductive age are enrolled in Medicaid, and millions are directly affected by the funding ban, which until now has been incorporated into spending bills that must be renewed annually. The new danger is that the Hyde Amendment will become permanent law and repeal will be even farther out of reach in the future.

These threats to women can be carried out nearly immediately by a new president or a new Congress.

They would have the most severe impact on women struggling to make ends meet, young women, women of color, LGBTQ people, immigrant women, and women living in rural areas. All three — a new anti-abortion justice on the Supreme Court, defunding Planned Parenthood, and strengthening Hyde — are part of the same dangerous agenda to push safe, affordable abortion care out of reach.

They all empower politicians and legislators to impose one religious view of abortion on all of us, eroding religious liberty and intruding on our ability to make personal decisions about our health, our bodies, and our futures guided by our own faith and beliefs.

We who care what happens to the lives of women, richer and poorer alike, must resist by pressuring lawmakers to oppose this radical agenda, to speak out against it, to mobilize friends and strangers in its defense, and to use the debate we expect to occur to foster resistance that can endure any temporary setbacks.

We must demand that the Senate refuse to confirm any Supreme Court nominee committed to overturning Roe or restricting its impact. We must push both houses of Congress to keep clinics open and protect Planned Parenthood from becoming the piñata of the extremist movement that would demolish abortion access with a few heavy and well-timed blows.

We must continue building a firewall against Hyde — not only to prevent its entrenchment but to end its dominance over federal policy on abortion access.

Roe established abortion access as a constitutional right. The Supreme Court recognized that abortion evoked strong emotions based on “one's philosophy, one's experiences, one's exposure to the raw edges of human existence, one's religious training, one's attitudes toward life and family and their values, and the moral standards one establishes and seeks to observe.…” With precisely those complexities in mind, the court decided to respect each woman’s right to make that decision for herself, based on her own moral and religious beliefs.

Congress, each of whose members swears an oath to uphold the Constitution, must also uphold Roe.

Nancy K. Kaufman is the chief executive officer of the National Council of Jewish Women, a grassroots organization inspired by Jewish values that strives to improve the quality of life for women, children, and families and to safeguard individual rights and freedoms.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.