In 1776, Abigail Adams asked her husband to “remember the ladies.”
Oh, if only Melania were so moved. Donald Trump could use the reminder.
From the moment he announced his improbable campaign, Trump has played to his most conservative supporters by promising to severely restrict abortion rights, as well as limit access to affordable birth control.
The battle has settled onto two fronts, including defunding Planned Parenthood, and—since a “repeal and replace effort” fell short—removing from the Affordable Care Act the mandate that requires employers to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives to their eligible workers.
On the first front, Connecticut has vowed to fund Planned Parenthood, should the federal government pull away. That organization’s women’s health services are that important.
But the second front is tough. In May, Donald Trump signed an executive order that purported to protect religious freedom. At the time, he hinted that he would take aim at Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate, even though the law includes accommodations for religious nonprofit organizations, and for so-called closely-held corporations that aren’t publicly traded. That way, business owners and others who oppose birth control would not be forced to do something that runs counter to their beliefs.
But wrap an idea in “religious freedom” and things start to get weird. A beautiful concept—–“I am free to worship [or not] as I please”—becomes “You are free to worship as I please.” And that has fueled this most recent assault on women’s health.
Ending that mandate will remove one of Obamacare’s most effective and socially responsible elements. Studies that look at affordable contraceptives’ impact on women, families, and the country at large have found that:
• Young women who have access to birth control tend to stay in school longer, and earn advanced degrees, which increases their earning power.
• Couples who can plan their pregnancies tend to stay together And don’t we all want healthy families?
• And here’s the kicker: Women who have affordable access to birth control have fewer abortions. Imagine that.
In short, access to affordable contraceptives benefits everyone, and that really is everyone. Ninety-nine percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44 have used birth control at some point in their lives, according to Guttmacher. That figure includes self-identified Catholics and Protestants, and people who don’t fall into either category. For women who identify as Catholic and are sexually experienced and of child-bearing age, 98 percent report they have used contraception (other than church-approved natural family planning).
But the push continues. Recently, one organization, Catholic Benefits Association, pressed Trump to follow through on his promise to end the contraceptive mandate. He’ll most likely cave. The more his poll numbers drop—and they’re historically low already—the more outlandish his behavior.
But here’s another kicker: Trump’s numbers are in the tank in no small part because of women’s disapproval of him. A recent survey from the Public Religion Research Institute said that six in 10 women “feel negatively” toward Trump. In that same survey, 47 percent of women thought Trump should be impeached, compared to 32 percent of men. The 2016 election gave us the widest gender gap in six decades. And then when Trump was elected, millions of women donned pink pussy hats and protested, around the world. We are serious about our disgust of this man.
So maybe Trump, too, should remember the ladies. A good place to start would be taking his hands off their birth control.
Susan Campbell is a distinguished lecturer at the University of New Haven. She can be reached at email@example.com.