The 6 Most Important News Stories Affecting Women Right Now
Well, we've made it through another week shuffling through the smoldering ashes of American democracy. Congratulations, everyone! But even though he has managed to upend everything that we held dear about our country, President Donald Trump is still steadily figuring out ways to make life for women in the U.S. particularly difficult. Here are the six most important news stories affecting women right now, because at the very least you need to understand what you're up against.
I'm not going to say that things have gotten worse for women under the Trump presidency, but in putting together this list I realized something horrifying: each and every one of these related back to him in some way. Some are through his direct actions and promises, others are through the people he's handpicked to help his administration. Some of these are already in motion, and others are part of the wealth of promises that he made on the campaign trail (and he seems dead set on at least trying to deliver on his pledges to voters, even if it doesn't quite work out like he thought). So, yeah, I won't say that Donald Trump has made things worse for women. I'm just saying that, if Donald Trump gets his way, then things will be a lot worse for women. Need proof? Keep reading.
1. Betsy DeVos and the future of Title IX
The Obama administration threw a lot of its weight behind assuring that Title IX, specifically how it related to universities' handling of sexual assault cases, was enforced. Title IX was put in place to assure that no one is discriminated against on the basis of their sex, and it covers a wide range of issues including protecting pregnant women and transgender students.
During her confirmation hearing, Betsy DeVos, who was approved as the secretary of education last week, was asked if she would continue to enforce Title IX in a similar fashion. She wouldn't commit.
All of this could spell trouble for the future of Title IX under Trump, and the progress that universities have made under the Obama administration could halt, or worse, regress, if they feel that the new Education Department head isn't holding them accountable. You can read more about what could possibly be an uphill battle for Title IX enforcement in this New York Times op-ed from this week.
2. Trump's anti-abortion executive order
Trump made a lot of waves with the series of executive orders that he issued shortly after his inauguration. But one of the quieter ones, which he signed on Jan. 23, was back in the news this week when Bill Gates rallied against it.
In an interview with the Guardian, Gates said that Trump's "global gag rule," which stops U.S. money going to overseas organizations that give abortion care or advice, could "create a void that even a foundation like ours can’t fill."
As the Guardian notes, every Republican president since Reagan has imposed this rule, but "Trump’s order goes further and applies to any organisation [sic] that receives funding from US Aid, not just those involved in family planning."
“We’re concerned that this shift could impact millions of women and girls around the world,” Melinda Gates told the Guardian. “It’s likely to have a negative effect on a broad range of health programs that provide lifesaving treatment and prevention options to those most in need."
3. Defunding Planned Parenthood
State level attempts to defund Planned Parenthood have been going on for years, and the U.S. House just made the path a little bit easier. The House voted on Thursday allow states to divert funds for family-planning clinics to other healthcare providers such as community health centers. This departs from a rule imposed during the Obama administration, which said that states wouldn't be able to deny funding to groups like Planned Parenthood "for reasons unrelated to their ability to provide basic family planning services," according to Time.
4. Contraception without Obamacare
House Speaker Paul Ryan presented a Republican policy brief on repealing Obamacare on Thursday. The plan was short on specifics, but it's clear that Republicans are ready to move forward with some sort of repeal. That means women should brace for the possibility that their contraceptive methods won't be covered.
Some states began to put plans into place that would continue contraception coverage for women if Obamacare is repealed, but many have not. That means that many of the 55 million women who have access to free contraception now are left in the dark about their future.
Even if Trump dropped that portion of the mandate, employers would likely still be able to cover the cost of contraception without co-pays, which as Reuters notes is relatively inexpensive for them. But that means that the cost of your birth control, ultimately, could be decided by your boss.
5. "A Day Without A Woman"
The organizers of the Women's March on Washington announced a national "Day Without A Woman" protest set for March 8. "In the spirit of women and their allies coming together for love and liberation, we offer a Day Without A Woman,” a statement read. “We ask: do businesses support our communities, or do they drain our communities? Do they strive for gender equity or do they support the policies and leaders that perpetuate oppressions." There are few specifics about the day from organizers so far, but it follows a "Day Without Immigrants" that happened nationally this week.
6. Maternity coverage
Trump's pick to lead the government's health insurance programs said this week that she believes maternity coverage should be optional for patients. Under Obamacare, maternity and newborn coverage was mandatory for health insurance plans. But Seema Verma, an Indiana health care consultant, told the Senate this week that ""some women might not choose" maternity coverage.
It seems likely that, under Verma's direction, health care providers would charge extra for women who wanted to include maternity coverage on their plans. At this point, it's unclear how much that could end up costing soon-to-be mothers.