Despite spending much of his first 96 hours as the nation’s leader arguing about crowd size and whether or not it rained, President Donald Trump has been busy fulfilling the promises he made on the campaign trail. Shortly after taking the oath of office on Friday, he signed executive orders to begin the process to dismantle health insurance access for millions of Americans.
On Saturday, millions around the world responded to the inauguration of Mr. Trump by marching in support of abortion access and racial, economic, and gender justice. Amidst all its complexity and critique, the Women’s March was the largest inaugural protest in U.S. history. And on Monday, the day after Sunday’s 44th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that ensures the constitutional right to an abortion, the President sat quietly at his desk (flanked by eight White cisgender men) and reinstated the Global Gag Rule, effectively silencing much of the world from even discussing abortion as a pregnancy option.
It’s terrifying to see how quickly access to information and healthcare can be eroded––in a matter of hours.
The Mexico City Policy, or as it’s more commonly known, the Global Gag Rule, is a policy that denies aid from the United States to any international organization that offers counseling on abortion, or the procedure itself, to the people the organization serves. It doesn’t matter if the organization uses other funding services to cover abortion and it doesn’t matter if abortion is legal in the country they’re working in.
The Global Gag Rule refuses them funding for even uttering the word “abortion.” This means organizations are cut off from essential funding to help end maternal mortality, treat HIV/AIDS, ensure people have healthy pregnancies, and distribute contraception, simply for talking to their communities about the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare.
The Global Gag Rule puts the entire U.S. government in between healthcare providers and their patients around the world. If people aren’t able to go to the organizations they depend on for trusted, medically accurate information, they’ll take matters into their own hands.
Be clear: the Global Gag Rule is an inhumane policy, and it puts lives at risk. People will die. ––Yamani Hernandez
But the attack on abortion access is far from over. Later today, Congress is expected to vote on H.R.7, a bill that makes the Hyde Amendment permanent law, banning federal funds from covering abortion care for those enrolled in Medicaid, detained in federal prisons and immigration detention centers, Indian Health Service, federal employees and their families, and even those who serve in the military and Peace Corps. This heartless bill also denies the District of Columbia the ability to use their own money to cover abortion care for residents, and bars private insurance companies from offering abortion coverage on the state marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act. The Hyde Amendment is a four-decade-old policy that cruelly denies those who cannot afford an abortion the ability to decide when to become a parent and how to grow their families. Now, the Republican-held Congress seeks to extend that reach to nearly everyone.
The Hyde Amendment is a discriminatory policy that severely impacts people with low incomes––it was designed that way when its author, Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) said, “I would certainly like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion: a rich woman, a middle class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the [Medicaid] bill.” It’s also a racist and sexist policy. Through The Tiller Fund, the National Network of Abortion Funds’ own abortion fund, we see the impact of the Hyde Amendment when it comes to who needs funding assistance for abortions.
In our over five years of data, more than 50 percent of people seeking abortion funding from the Tiller Fund are Black, much higher than the average of those seeking abortions nationally (38 percent). The ban on insurance coverage of abortions forces them to spend weeks scrounging up funds to cover the procedure, placing them later into their pregnancy, when abortions are less accessible and more expensive. As states are shutting down abortion clinics, people are having to travel farther, even out-of-state, for healthcare. This is on top of the state mandated waiting periods, and other restrictions, that make abortion nearly inaccessible for those struggling to get by. Without a national sick leave policy, low wage workers are forced to take time off of work unpaid to access healthcare and risk losing their jobs altogether.
Putting political ideology ahead of healthcare is harming us, and gutting our healthcare. Abortion restrictions are designed to chip away at the protections guaranteed by Roe v. Wade, forcing people to take extreme measures and travel long distances for care.
At the National Network of Abortion Funds and member organizations across the country, we hear from those most affected by these discriminatory policies. Policies we are now exporting to the rest of the world. From funding and rides to clinics, to childcare, translations, and overnight housing, abortion funds are holding a critical line of defense ensuring that abortion is accessible in reality. No one should be forced to skip buying groceries or delay paying rent so they can afford an abortion. Yet, this is what we see every single day.
Our nation is becoming an unsafe place for anyone to become pregnant. As governor of Indiana, Vice President Mike Pence oversaw two women of color thrown in jail and convicted on suspicion of self-inducing abortions. The criminalization of pregnancy is fast approaching.
President Trump and Congress have made it clear they are determined to dismantle abortion rights completely. But abortion isn’t their only target––our entire healthcare system is.––Yamani Hernandez
Many people don’t think about abortion until they need one, which can happen in cases of miscarriage, maternal or fetal health, and in vitro fertilization (IVF). The maternal mortality rates for Black women are three times higher than our White counterparts, particularly for those living in the South. Abortion can literally save our lives.
But what’s happening to abortion access across the nation is the stark preview for what’s to come for everyone. Those who care about supporting adoptive, queer, single parent, and young parent families should know this is an attack on how all of us build our families and create strong communities. The restrictions on abortion rights are a slippery slope to restrictions on contraception, miscarriages, infertility, and pregnancy decision-making. Abortion is the canary in the coal mine, and we have to heed its warning.
We have to get loud in showing our collective power to support our values: compassion, healthcare for all, and autonomy. Our elected officials work for us, their constituents––we the people. We must remind them of that. We need to make calls to our legislators and demand they hold the President accountable for silencing medical providers around the world and decimating access to abortion with their votes. We have to paint a picture of the future we want, where everyone is able to decide for themselves how to build their families, without economic coercion from the government. If we don’t, they’ll legislate it all away. It’s just a matter of hours.
Yamani Hernandez is the executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds.