During the Susan B. Anthony dinner, President Trump announced a series of changes and updates to the Title X Family Planning Grant Program, and one of them could be really problematic. Aside from moving to defund Planned Parenthood, Trump's Title X funding update on abortion clinics might send the wrong message to sexual abuse survivors. In the age of #MeToo, while people across the country are grappling with notions of consent and reckoning with the prevalence of sexual abuse and harassment across every industry, one clause in particular could be a major set back.
On Tuesday night, President Trump listed all of the changes that will be made to the Title X Family Planning Grant Program, which, according to the United States Department of Health & Human Services, works to serve low-income Americans and ensure that they have access to proper family planning care and services. In truth, though, it works to take federal funding away from Planned Parenthood, as well as any other clinic that makes abortion referrals.
But that's not the only aspect of Title X that's troubling for women, unfortunately enough. There was also another new addition to the program that could be interpreted as suggesting survivors are responsible for stopping sexual abuse.
Specifically, the clause says it'll protect "women and children who have experienced child abuse, child molestation, incest, sexual abuse, rape, intimate partner violence, and trafficking by ... counseling to minors on how to resist attempts to coerce them into sexual activities."
Although this clause might seem at face value like an attempt to give minors more tools and strategies to combat sexual assault, it could end up changing the conversation that these clinics create around victims of sexual abuse. If one of the main strategies for protecting minors from sexual abuse is to teach them to run faster, kick harder, or simply excuse themselves from any situation where they are alone with a potential aggressor, then the assumption of the program is clear: that if this sexual abuse still takes place, the minor is (at least partially) at fault for not having "resisted" properly.
There's a psychological term for what this clause is encouraging: victim-blaming. According to The Atlantic, victim-blaming is "a natural psychological reaction to crime," and people often think through this mindset without even meaning to. Victim-blaming is at the root of plenty of unacceptable arguments that people make about sexual abuse, from asking what a woman was wearing the night she was abused, to teaching young girls not to lead on men at the risk of getting into trouble.
This clause, though shrouded in the guise of counseling, might end up being just that: a new legal provision allowing workers at Title X clinics to victim-blame, rather than recognizing that the only person at fault for an instance of sexual abuse is the person who committed the act.
What's more, any efforts to focus on teaching minors to "resist" might inevitably take away from efforts (and the funding for those efforts) of educating people about consent and punishing those who violate those rules of consent. It also might make it harder for victims to come forward, if they're worried that a person will ask them why they didn't resist more effectively.
While this clause is problematic on its own, other aspects of the new updates to the Title X Family Planning Grant Program will be equally problematic for women everywhere who support their right to choose to have a safe, legal abortion. For example, one proposed change will allow health providers to refuse abortion counseling and referral if they feel it violates their "conscience."