A document released by crooked.com which purports to be an internal White House document, if true, has disturbing implications for the administration’s reproductive rights agenda.
Much of the document covers previously anticipated policy positions like additional funding for school-choice programs, changes to unemployment benefits, increases to the VA program, and even the (not-so-terrible-for-once) support for NASA’s Deep Space Gateway. But implications for women’s reproductive health at-home and abroad are … problematic.
PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, is an U.S. program that supports HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention initiatives internationally. According to the document obtained by Crooked the administration’s hope for the program is to split PEPFAR’s funding between treatment (which is good) and “sexual risk avoidance rather than risk reduction”.
Correct me if you think I’m wrong, but that would mean 0 funds for things like condoms and PrEP, but boat loads of money for things like “abstinence only education programs”.
The document also outlines a desire to:
Defund the United Nations Population Fund, which provides reproductive healthcare services for women in over 150 countries.
Defund UN-Women, which focuses on international gender equality issues
Make changes in USAID funding including dramatic cuts to the Let Girls Learn Program, the sole mission of which is to increase educational opportunities for adolescent girls abroad.
“Teen Pregnancy – needs to be defunded as it has not worked, there is no positive evidence and some negative evidence. Instead we should work with adolescents on sexual risk avoidance and fertility awareness methods”
That one is pretty vague in terms of which programs it refers to but again “sexual risk avoidance” sounds an awful lot like “just tell kids to not have sex”, which we know doesn’t work. At any rate, if this document is legitimate, then pregnant teens can expect no help from this administration.
When I say ‘no help’ for women and children in need I mean no help. It also says they want to completely eliminate the Head Start Program, the sole purpose of which is to provide support for women and children in at-risk communities to reduce infant mortality and increase availability to neonatal care.
In a not surprising dig at Planned Parenthood the memo then suggests a 50% cut to Health and Human Services Title X programs, saying that money could be used to “fund childcare programs, or new fertility awareness programs for adolescents”. While childcare funding programs probably aren’t a terrible thing “fertility awareness programs”, yet again, sounds like just another way to promote abstinence only. Title X, of course, is the program that provides reproductive healthcare assistance to low-income Americans.
The last bullet on the memo is interesting in how innocuous it sounds before you dig into it. It says: “OCR: new conscience protection unit plus-up”. OCR is the Office of Civil Rights and the ‘conscience protection unit’ refers to Trump’s religious liberty executive order. The unit’s job is basically to defend religious right of denial of services by businesses and employees. Let’s be plain, it’s one thing when we’re talking about cakes, wedding photos, and invitations, but the real threats come from more crucial occupations like pharmacists that refuse to prescribe birth control and Catholic hospitals that refuse to perform tubal ligations.
All in all, if true, the memo is a somber reminder of just how far this administration is willing to go if allowed.