Ilyse Hogue Describes The Catastrophe Of A Donald Trump Administration — And The Damage He's Already Inflicted On Women

Although Donald Trump claims to "love" and "cherish" women, his sexism comes up over and over again as he campaigns for president. He was, let's say, never quite a women's candidate, but his most recent statement that women who have hypothetical illegal abortions should be punished pushed him over the edge from offensive to extremely worrisome for many voters. While it's easy for his supporters to play off the charismatic billionaire's misogyny as harmless words, I talked to Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, about how Trump's sexism could translate into real actions if he becomes the next president of the United States.

The GOP frontrunner furiously tried to backtrack after saying last week that women who obtain illegal abortions should receive "some form of punishment," altering his stance slightly to say the doctors performing such abortions should be punished — not the women, whom he described are mere victims. The idea of punishing women for choosing to end a pregnancy still troubled both Democrats and Republicans, but Trump's problem with women goes further than the issue of abortion.

"He would not actually invite and look at the kinds of policies that make sure that women and girls thrive – and it goes beyond reproductive rights," Hogue tells Bustle from her office in downtown Washington, D.C. "What we know from data all over the world is that when women and girls do thrive, when they are at the center of policy, the outcomes are good for everyone."

Of course, policies surrounding women's autonomy over their bodies are incredibly important, but there are countless other "women's issues" that a president unconcerned with lifting up women wouldn't champion. Because a president does nothing alone, it's vital to look at the types of people a prospective one would employ. Would they make similarly offensive comments about women, or will they try to improve the lives of American women? Trump has already begun to surround himself with the former, including his one-time opponent Ben Carson, who doesn't even support abortion exemptions for cases of rape and incest, and conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, who doesn't believe marital rape "counts" as rape at all.

"I have no belief, based on his stance so far toward women, that he would create the kind of representation that we need to bring the best minds to the table to move our country forward," Hogue says. She also worries about how a sexist president's beliefs would permeate the country, affecting the behavior of average Americans. She says:

"Donald Trump leads by example, and his willingness to speak in such denigrating and derogatory terms toward women gives permission to a lot of people who follow him to do the same."

Hogue explained that the Republican's example could also lead sexist speech to escalate into harmful actions. "It makes them feel as though it's acceptable not only to express those views, but also to actually act on them in their daily lives. So I think that the damage that he would do through his own personal choices about who he surrounds himself with, and how that would hold our country back, would have a massive domino effect. Other people would see permission to do the same in their daily lives."

Hogue believes there are some Americans, though a minority, who want to stop the progress women have made toward gender equality. "The rise of feminism ... has threatened a lot of men who are really committed to the privilege of the patriarchy," she says. The ability to treat women poorly depends on that privilege, and Hogue thinks Trump's ascent could strengthen the anti-feminist agenda.

"It couldn’t really come at a worse time for our country — which is on the cusp of really grappling with gender equality in a way that would create an evolutionary leap forward in policy, in culture, in the marketplace — for women and gender equality to have this sort of counterpoint that's pulling us backwards and weighing us down," she explained.

Looking beyond the U.S., the president has tremendous power over the nation's foreign policy, and Hogue worries about a Trump administration failing to empower women around the globe. NARAL formally endorsed Hillary Clinton in part because of the way she championed foreign policy aimed at ensuring that women and girls thrive as secretary of state, including helping President Obama launch the first-ever U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. "A Trump presidency would not only stop that work, it would set us way back in terms of how we participate in global society," Hogue says.

Darren McCollester/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The NARAL president is equal parts scared and optimistic about the election. The optimism stems from the knowledge that Trump "has no pathway to victory without women" — especially independent women, whom Hogue thinks are raising their eyebrows over his candidacy. "I think part of it is his misogynistic worldview, and part of it is the crassness, which people don't find very presidential," she explains.

However, the fear of Trump's impact on America is very real, regardless of the election's outcome.

"Whether or not he wins the election," Hogue says, "we're going to have a lot of damage to undo because of what he's unleashed with his rhetoric."

Images: Lauren Holter/Bustle