A photo of the House Freedom Caucus and Mike Pence went viral on Thursday, and for good reason — it showed that in a discussion over the future of women’s health insurance plans, the only people in the room were white men.
— Jim McGovern (@RepMcGovern) March 23, 2017
In a bid to get the far-right Freedom Caucus on board, President Trump and GOP leadership (again, all men) offered to repeal Obamacare’s Essential Health Benefits provision, which mandates that health insurers offer coverage for basic care like hospitalizations, prescriptions, and notably for women, pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care.
According to reports, however, the Freedom Caucus still doesn’t think the bill goes far enough. And on Friday, Trump took to Twitter to levy one more threat at its members, dangling women’s health coverage in front of them as bait:
The irony is that the Freedom Caucus, which is very pro-life and against Planned Parenthood, allows P.P. to continue if they stop this plan!
— President Trump (@POTUS) March 24, 2017
There’s many ways in which Trumpcare would disproportionately affect women. It would price abortion care out of reach for many women, even some on employee-sponsored plans. It would roll back Medicaid and charge seniors more for health insurance, hurting two populations that are predominately female. With the new revisions, it will roll back maternity coverage.
And, as Trump alludes to, it would federally defund Planned Parenthood —which in practice, actually means preventing low-income and rural women and men who depend on Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings, STD testing, and birth control consultations. In 105 counties, Planned Parenthood is the only birth control clinic. Annually, 2.5 million women and men seek care at Planned Parenthood clinics.
Trump knows this. During the campaign, while he hewed to his pro-life political stance, he also — kind of — stood with Planned Parenthood.
“As far as Planned Parenthood is concerned, I’m pro-life, I’m totally against abortion having to do with Planned Parenthood,” he said at one Republican primary debate. “But millions and millions of women — cervical cancer, breast cancer — are helped by Planned Parenthood. So you can say whatever you want, but they have millions of women going through Planned Parenthood that are helped greatly.”
At a subsequent press conference, he told reporters that he considered women’s health issues “very important,” and again touted the Planned Parenthood for doing “very good work for millions of women.”
“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “but I’ve had thousands of letters from women that have been helped. This wasn’t a set-up, this was people writing letters.”
Now, however, Trump is saying that the Freedom Caucus needs to vote for his health care bill to stop Planned Parenthood from continuing at all — rhetoric that goes even beyond the typical conservative line of “defunding” it.
“It’s crystal clear: They will sacrifice the health of every woman in this country to pass this disastrous bill,” Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President at Planned Parenthood said in a statement. “Today, the President is using Planned Parenthood, and the millions of women who depend on us for care, as part of a dangerous political game.”
And, the irony is, that while Trump himself is accusing the Freedom Caucus of being disingenuously pro-life, his own pro-life stance appeared exactly at the same time he started getting serious about his political ambitions.
In 1989, Trump co-sponsored a dinner at one of his hotels honoring the former president of the pro-choice group NARAL. In a 1999 NBC interview, he outright said that he supported abortion rights.
“I’m very pro-choice,” Trump says. “I hate the concept of abortion. I hate it. I hate everything it stands for. I cringe when I listen to people debating the subject. But you still — I just believe in choice.”
In the same interview, Trump also said that he wouldn’t ban “partial-birth abortion.”
Partial-birth abortion is not a medical term, but instead a political framing invented by the anti-abortion National Right to Life Committee for a procedure called Dilation and Extraction. It was banned by President Bush in 2003 and later upheld by the Supreme Court.
But in 2011, when Trump was considering running on the Republican ticket, he told attendees at CPAC that he was “pro-life.”
And during his 2016 campaign, Trump got tripped up on the issue multiple times. In one interview, he slipped and told Jake Tapper that he was pro-choice before correcting himself. At one point, he took five different positions in three days — moving from saying that women should be punished for having abortions, to saying it would be up to states, to settling into lock-step with anti-choice activists and saying that he was committed to appointing pro-life judges who would roll back abortion rights.
Now, Trump and Congressional Republicans are trading women’s health coverage — from maternity care to Planned Parenthood access — as a bargaining chip in order to pass a deeply-unpopular health care bill that breaks almost all of Trump’s campaign promises on how he would fix health care.
“You cannot call yourself pro-family and slash maternity care. You cannot claim you want to invest in women’s health and block access to Planned Parenthood and essential women’s health care,” Laguens responded to Trump’s tweet. “Negotiating away access to cancer screenings, birth control and maternity care is not ‘pro-life,’ it’s cruel.”