Republicans like to claim that the party’s “war on women” is a political hatchet job by Democrats, yet the GOP keeps providing evidence that it’s real. The latest is the rather chilling report that Donald Trump’s transition team has asked the State Department to provide all information regarding gender-related “staffing, programming and funding,” a query first reported by The Washington Post.
There was no immediate explanation of why the request for information about “programs that promote gender equality” was made, but it’s difficult to see it as anything short of an attack on U.S. efforts to promote women’s rights worldwide. It’s particularly worrisome given the disturbing request the transition team made at the Energy Department — a list of federal employees who worked on the Paris climate accord. That, too, appears to be an effort to cleanse the agency of employees who accept climate change science as something more than a Chinese hoax.
Meanwhile, Trump’s choices to be attorney general and to run the Central Intelligence Agency and Department of Health and Human Services all voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act while serving in Congress — supposedly because it extended battered spouse legal protections to same-sex couples. Yet the measure passed with bipartisan support, just not a “yea” from hardliners Jeff Sessions, Tom Price and Mike Pompeo. Former Senator Sessions and Representative Price also voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
The cabinet is also getting increasingly stacked with individuals who strongly oppose women’s’ reproductive freedoms. From Ben Carson at Housing and Urban Development to Betsy DeVos at the Department of Education, most Trump nominees are strongly against abortion rights — a consistency of socially conservative opinion one doesn’t necessarily expect in heads of agencies that have little to do with reproductive decisions.
And those choices aren’t being made in a vacuum. Republican-controlled states continue to find ways to roll back women’s reproductive rights even when these proposed state-based restrictions run afoul of Roe v. Wade and even more recent Supreme Court decisions. On Dec. 13, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law legislation to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest, a clear violation of Planned Parenthood v. Casey given its “undue burden” standard.
One might assume that Trump would be at least somewhat sensitive to these attacks on women given his already poor standing with them.
Most women voted for Hillary Clinton on Election Day (although a hefty majority of non-college educated white women did not). And the release of his taped lewd conversation about women with a TV host remains one of the lowlights of the campaign.
The president-elect has nominated women for a handful of top posts, including Nikki Haley as United Nations ambassador, Elaine Chao as transportation secretary and Johns Hopkins University graduate Seema Verma as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Of course, another shoe will drop when Trump nominates someone to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, the position once held by Antonin Scalia and for which Judge Merrick Garland was nominated by President Barack Obama and ignored by the Republican-controlled Senate for nearly a full year. If the 21 names Trump trotted out as possible nominees during the campaign is any guide, his pick is likely to be white, male, middle-aged and opposed to abortion rights.
Perhaps Trump will yet seize on an issue that actually benefits women, but he’s not likely to hear about it during a cabinet meeting.
The better bet may be lobbying from his daughter Ivanka, who has reportedly been pushing her father to support mandatory paid maternity leave and greater government investment in child care. Both would be welcome.
Still, the president-elect and his party have clearly given the nation’s women reason for concern, and they may soon get a chance to express themselves on that point. The planned Women’s March on Washington could attract sizable crowds on Jan. 21.
It’s billed not so much as an anti-Trump event as a “pro-women” rally. Major social movements in this country have started from less.