President Donald Trump has made no secret of his administration’s disdain for science, from naming a climate change denier to lead the Environmental Protection Agency to proposing a budget that slashes funding for research. The potential harm to our environment could be felt for generations, and these threats have rightly mobilized people across the United States to speak out in mass demonstrations.
Less attention has been given to another target of the Republican war on science: women’s rights. But consistent with a commitment to “alternative facts,” the GOP has been busy using bogus “science” to undermine reproductive health at every level of government.
The Trump administration has been aggressively filling top government positions with anti-choice activists who have pushed right-wing myths about reproductive health:
- Katy Talento, picked for a spot on Trump’s Domestic Policy Council, has written that taking birth control leads to miscarriages (not true).
- Teresa Manning, who will oversee the Title X family planning programs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), believes that “contraception doesn’t work.” (What?)
- Charmaine Yoest, also named to a top HHS position, says that having an abortion raises the risk of breast cancer (not true), that IUDs have “life-ending properties” (nope), and insists that scientists are “under the control of the abortion lobby.”
Knowing that these ideologues are helping shape health policy for the country is not exactly comforting.
Equally frightening is the fact that this disregard for scientific facts on reproductive health issues isn’t limited to GOP leaders at the federal level—it’s also been a long-time modus operandi for many Republicans in local and state positions.
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For instance, a telling analysis from the Guttmacher Institute this month found that a majority of women of reproductive age live in a state with multiple abortion restrictions in place that conflict with scientific evidence. In other words, most U.S. women are forced to have their health decisions shaped by not just one, but multiple laws that go against science. Yoest, in fact, is also the former president and CEO of Americans United for Life, an organization that produces copycat legislation of this kind for states to restrict reproductive health care nationwide.
According to the study, six states have laws requiring providers to tell women that having an abortion can have harmful mental health outcomes, despite extensive data showing that this is not the case. Other states require providers to tell women that an abortion can lead to future fertility problems (also untrue).
The reality—that these restrictions aren’t backed up by, or actively contradict, empirical facts—doesn’t seem to be a problem for the Republican politicians who introduce and support them.
Unfortunately, facts seem to be increasingly out of vogue nowadays. But when our policies at any level of government are grounded in myths rather than data, they are too often a vehicle for an extreme, harmful agenda that throws reproductive autonomy out the window.