As Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion witnesses gathered for a U.S. Senate hearing last week to discuss banning abortion after 20 weeks post-fertilization, phrases like “advocating for women” rolled effortlessly off their tongues. This was par for the course for Republicans in Congress—who, fueled by the Trump administration’s false talk, are pushing the narrative that abortion harms women.
In reality, banning abortion is what harms women. Before Roe v. Wade, patients had no choice but to resort to unsafe practices to end their pregnancies, often causing themselves serious harm and even death. As more states pass laws severely limiting access to abortion, those who can’t afford to travel elsewhere for the procedure may be forced to induce their own abortions. In some cases, they could even face jail time for this desperate act.
If the same anti-abortion lawmakers care about women’s health or have any desire to protect children and families, there are plenty of ways they could show their support.
Let’s start with supporting health-care programs. The Trump administration’s recent radical overhaul of the Title X family planning program puts roadblocks in the way of more than 4 million low-income people getting reproductive and other important preventive care. And the Trump administration’s continued assaults on the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid threaten individuals’ access to health insurance that provides them with coverage for maternity care, newborn care, and other services that keep them healthy and economically secure. This is especially appalling as the maternal mortality rate has rocketed in recent years, particularly for Black women.
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The same senators who express such concern about the harm caused to women by abortion are silent when it comes to opposing these particular attacks on the programs that promote women’s health. Some of them are more than silent—they’ve actively voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and supported programs to kick families struggling to make ends meet off Medicaid.
Ensuring mothers earn enough to put healthy food on the table and cover rising housing and childcare costs is another way Republican lawmakers could show they care. But when it comes to closing the gender pay gap, their real priorities are clear. My organization, the National Women’s Law Center, recently won a lawsuit against the Trump administration over its efforts to block an Obama-era initiative that required large employers to report pay data by race, ethnicity, and gender. In its effort to block public information about wage inequity, the Trump administration and its backers in Congress revealed how little they actually care about women.
Those same senators have also shown little interest in speaking out against the Trump administration’s blatant contempt for survivors of sexual assault and harassment as demonstrated most blatantly by their support for Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and disparagement of the brave women who accused him of sexual abuse. And where have they been as the U.S. Department of Education has tried to weaken enforcement of Title IX protections against sexual assault and other forms of sexual harassment in schools?
Finally, Republican lawmakers’ efforts to protect children and families apparently stop at our nation’s southern border. Most uttered barely a word when the Trump administration put in place an unforgivably cruel policy that separated infants and young children from their immigrant parents. Where are those senators now in the face of the administration’s continuing botched attempts to reunite those families?
Senators, if you care about the health and well-being of women and babies, stop spreading dangerous falsehoods about abortion, and start showing up for policies and programs that make a real difference for the people who need them most.