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Mika Brzezinski just one of 214 million women Trump doesn't care for

by Robert J. Walker | Population Institute
Friday, 7 July 2017 10:37 GMT

Andreza Maiara Soares, who is four months pregnant, is seen at her house at a slum in Recife, Brazil, March 2, 2016. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Currently, the U.S. is spending $607 million a year in support of family planning and reproductive health programs in the developing world

The President’s tweeting continues to grab national headlines.  Last week his target was Mika Brzezinski, the cohost of MSNBC’s weekday Morning Joe show.  He called her “I.Q. Crazy Mika” and claimed he had refused to let her join his table at his Mar-a-Lago estate earlier this year, because she was "bleeding badly from a face-lift.”

As Mika can readily attest to, when President Trump does not care for a woman, he is not shy about letting her know. Mika, however, should not take it personally. President Trump does not care for lots of women. To be more precise, he does not care for 214 million women.

The Guttmacher Institute last week reported that there are 214 million women of reproductive age in developing world who want to avoid pregnancy, but who are not using a modern method of contraception. For many of these women, delaying a pregnancy can be a matter of life or death, particularly for teenage brides, but also for adult women who need to space their pregnancies to avoid pregnancy-related complications.

Guttmacher estimates 308,000 women in developing countries will die this year from pregnancy-related causes and 2.7 million babies will die in the first month of life. Research reveals that most of these deaths could be prevented with access to better health care services, including contraception and maternal and newborn health care for mothers and their babies. 

In the past two decades there has been a lot of progress globally in eradicating severe poverty and hunger, but virtually all of that progress has occurred in countries where fertility rates are low.  Where they remain high, progress has been elusive.  

For over half a century, USAID has been a global leader in the provision of family planning services to developing nations. For many developing countries USAID’s assistance has been nothing short of transformative.  And with expanded investments in family planning, the education of girls, and the empowerment of women, dramatic progress can be made in those developing countries that have been left behind.

President Trump, however, has sent a clear message to the 214 million women in the developing world who want to avoid a pregnancy, and it is not a derogatory tweet. It’s a budget recommendation, and  it is not just nasty; it is positively devastating. The president’s proposed budget for FY2018 calls for the defunding of all international family planning assistance

Currently, the U.S. is spending $607 million a year in support of family planning and reproductive health programs in the developing world, including support for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), but the President wants to eliminate all funding. The Administration has already axed, by executive order, all funding for UNFPA programs, including the emergency assistance it provides to Syrian and Iraqi women now living in refugee camps.

President Trump, quite simply, does not care about women who want, or need, to avoid a pregnancy. And it does not matter where those women live.  The president does not discriminate.

In addition to cutting international family planning assistance, President Trump wants to roll back the expansion of contraceptive coverage that has occurred in this country under Obamacare. Not satisfied with cutting back on insurance coverage for women of reproductive age, Trumpcare would also bar Planned Parenthood for one year from receiving any federal reimbursement for the preventive health care services, including contraception, it provides to low-income women.  In whatever form it ultimately takes, Trumpcare simply does not care about the reproductive health care needs of women.

If the President and his allies in Congress should ultimately fail in their efforts to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, the Trump Administration is working on an “interim final rule” that would revise the Obamacare’s contraceptive coverage mandate to allow employers to remove or modify contraceptive coverage from the health insurance policies they offer their employees. If adopted, this rule would make it exceedingly easy for employers with moral or religious objections to drop contraception coverage. Employers would not even have to notify the government.

And if, for whatever reason, the Trump Administration fails in its effort to modify or rescind Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate, Trump’s allies in the U.S. House of Representatives are gearing up for another attempt to eliminate all funding for Title X, the federal program that provides support to family planning clinics serving low-income households in this country, including the clinics run by Planned Parenthood. 

It’s not just television news hosts, when President Trump does not like women, he lets them know, and he lets them know in ways that are, unfortunately, far more hurtful than an insulting tweet.

Robert J. Walker is the president of the Population Institute, a Washington nonprofit advocating for family planning and gender equality. The views expressed in this commentary are solely his.