Earlier this week, Congress passed a big spending package to keep the government running through the end of September. After months of fears that they’d use the opportunity to strip funding from Planned Parenthood, the final outcome was something of a relief: they left the funding alone. With so much else going on, House and Senate leadership apparently decided not to pick that particular fight right now.
But in a case of “Every Silver Lining has a Cloud,” Donald Trump made sure to let everyone know that it’s still on his agenda. In response to anti-choice criticism of the bill, Trump basically said that he’s just biding his time. In an interview on—where else?—Fox News, he said that “at the appropriate time, things will happen.”
That sounds kind of…ominous.
It’s tempting to hope that the “appropriate time” for defunding Planned Parenthood is kind of like the “appropriate time” to make Mexico pay for the wall, or the “appropriate time” to track down all those alleged illegal votes in California. It’s tempting, but I think it would be a mistake.
Donald Trump is unpopular. If his approval numbers stay as low as they are now, he’ll need to do whatever it takes to keep his base happy. Slashing Planned Parenthood funding is one way he could do that.
He’s already done plenty of things that make it clear he has no qualms at all about undermining access to reproductive health care: reinstating (and expanding!) the Global Gag Rule, ending US funding to UNFPA, reversing Obama’s Title X rule, appointing Neil Gorsuch.
And just this week, he’s added two new hires to his administration who have serious anti-choice street-cred.
Over at the Department of Health and Human Services, Charmaine Yoest is the new assistant secretary for public affairs. She used to be president of Americans United for Life, a well-known anti-choice organization. She insists that abortion causes breast cancer (it doesn’t), and that scientists who disagree are “under the control of the abortion lobby.” Also at DHS (they’re really building a deep bench of anti-choice “talent” over there), Teresa Manning is the new deputy assistant secretary for population affairs. That means she’s going to be in charge of the Title X family planning program. Manning also buys into the debunked abortion/breast cancer link. And even more troubling, given her new post, she also thinks birth control doesn’t really work and that the government shouldn’t have a role in family planning.
But I’m sure it’s fine. They’re both going to be dedicated public servants and put aside their personal biases to carry out the functions of their posts; there’s no way they’d use their new positions to find insidious ways to undercut reproductive health and rights. Right?