How This Group Of Women In Congress Is Fighting Trump's Assault On Women's Rights

by Lani Seelinger
Kris Connor/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

There's a good chance that you haven't heard of the Democratic Women's Working Group (DWWG), but now this congressional group is on the front lines of one of the most important fights that the Trump administration has brought about so far. The DWWG, comprised of all of the Democratic women in the House of Representatives, currently has a pretty significant assault on their hands: Trump's decision to roll back the ACA's birth control mandate. The administration couched this in the language of restoring religious freedom to the downtrodden — that is, employers who felt that providing birth control as part of employee health insurance plans went against their moral or religious beliefs. The members of the DWWG, however, recognize it as an attack on women's access to necessary health care.

"You think you win a victory 25 years ago, and what you realize is anytime you think you have a right, don’t turn your back, because someone’s trying to take it away," Rep. Lois Frankel, chair of the DWWG tells Bustle. "You always have to watch it, because ... once women lose access to full health care, I mean, that’s a game changer."

The House's Pro-Choice Caucus, in cooperation with DWWG, just introduced concrete legislation to protect women against this latest instance of someone trying to take away a right. On Thursday, Rep. Diana Degette, along with three of her colleagues in the House including Rep. Frankel, introduced the Protect Access to Birth Control Act, which would essentially nullify the exemptions that Trump created for employers who didn't want to provide birth control under their employee health insurance plans.

"The president’s recent move to roll back the Affordable Care Act provision that has allowed women to access birth control with no out-of-pocket costs ignores the reality that birth control is health care," said Rep. Louise Slaughter, Co-chair of the Congressional Pro Choice Caucus, according to the press release about the bill. "The legislation we are introducing today would prevent the president’s interim final rules from having any force of law."

You might have heard of the group when they made some news early in the Trump administration. They all agreed to wear white during Trump's first address to a joint session of Congress, a nod to the suffragettes' symbolic color. Later, on International Women's Day, they organized a walkout to mark the internationally recognized "Day Without a Woman."

Unlike these events, however, their day-to-day work doesn't get quite the same amount of publicity. But that doesn't mean it's not just as important. Rep. Lois Frankel, the group's chair, has a lot of insight about the group's position right now — specifically, as part of the congressional minority, fighting back against what they see as an all-out attack on some of their top priorities.

"You have to sort of balance a resistance with basically action, you know, positive action, and I think all of us would rather be in a situation where our efforts are always positive action," Rep. Frankel tells Bustle. "Where you’re moving the ball forward, you’re not having to prevent, you know, the ball going backwards."

The DWWG is engaged with multiple issues at any given time, but one thing they have to keep coming back to with this president is women's reproductive rights. "There still has to be resistance to especially his all out assault on women’s reproductive rights ... his administration has been just one attack after another, not only on women here, but all over the world," Rep. Frankel says, referring to Trump's reinstating of the Global Gag Rule preventing any American aid from going to international organizations that so much as mention abortion, the GOP's continued drive to defund Planned Parenthood, and the inherent anti-women qualities of the Republican Obamacare repeal plans.

Maintaining women's access to the full range of required health care is the issue Rep. Frankel feels most passionately about — even if it doesn't take up all of her time every day. Coming from this position, though, you can be sure that Rep. Frankel and her colleagues will bring a lot of fire to this fight over birth control.

Birth control, the congresswomen introducing the legislation emphasize, isn't just a matter of preference for the millions of women who use it for whatever reason it is that they need it. “Denying access to contraception is denying women access to health care," said Rep. Judy Chu, who also introduced the bill, in the press release.

"Women, not their bosses, should be in charge of their family planning," Rep. Frankel added. "Millions of women are at risk of losing birth control due to another Trump action. We must fight to stop him from turning back the clock.”

According to the press release, two senators have introduced a companion bill in the Senate. It's certainly not a given that this legislation will succeed given the current makeup of Congress; Republicans have a significant majority in the House and a slight one in the Senate, and that party has shown itself to be amenable to both undermining the ACA and rescinding birth control access time and time again.

However, the DWWG won't stop either way. This administration hasn't been kind to women so far on many fronts, but the DWWG is like a little ray of hope; a legislative group of fairy godmothers, except instead of using magic, they use hard work on Capitol Hill. The administration's wave of attacks on women's rights is unlikely to abate in its ferocity — but as long as it continues, you can take heart in the knowledge that there is a dedicated group in Congress fighting on your behalf.