By Jennifer Jones Austin
“America will continue to fight for women’s rights and equality across the country and around the world. Though poverty holds back many women, America cannot and will not allow this to persist. We will empower all women to pursue their American dreams, to live, work and thrive in safe communities that allow them to protect and provide for themselves and their families.”
— President Donald Trump, Annual Presidential Proclamation declaring March as Women’s History Month, 2017
As we near the end of Women’s History month — a month dedicated to celebrating women for their vast accomplishments and contributions to American society — it is challenging to see how Donald Trump will make good on this promise to empower women, for the sentiments expressed in his declaration are not aligned with his actions in his first 70 days as President. Rather, the steps he’s taken would likely deny millions of women an opportunity to pursue the American dream.
Several programs that are key to empowering women have been targeted for elimination in America’s First Budget: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again, which is Trump’s proposed budget that was presented to Congress earlier this month. If adopted, this budget will stifle the dreams of millions of women, many of whom already struggle with the burdens of poverty. Here is a look at how.
Trump’s budget would:
- Eliminate $150 million from the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, which provides supplemental nutrition benefits and nutrition education for an average of 1.9 million low-income pregnant women and their infants and small children.
- Eliminate block grants that would cut overall funding for discretionary block grants by $8.0 billion or 47 percent. These discretionary block grants mainly serve low-income people and include access to maternal and child healthcare.
- Reduce funding for Pell Grants by $3.9 billion. Pell Grants provide tuition assistance for low income individuals, two thirds of whom are women seeking to better their and their families’ lives.
- Provide zero funding for 21st Century Learning Centers, which provide comprehensive after-school enrichment for 1.6 million children throughout the country. Eliminating funding for essential afterschool programing directly impacts mothers and their ability to remain employed and provide their children with a safe learning environment.
- Decrease the Department of Health and Human Services’ current funding by 17.9%, which would threaten early education programs like Head Start that are a vital source for child development for more than one million low-income working families.
- The proposed budget calls for a funding cut to health professions and nursing training programs by $403 million. Women make up the largest percentage of nurses across the country. Such a significant reduction could have a serious impact on training capacity for nurses, the nation’s frontline health providers, and the nation’s healthcare system overall.
- Defund the Legal Service Corporation (LSC), an independent agency that provides legal assistance to poor individuals and families for domestic violence matters and landlord tenant disputes. 70 percent of the clients who utilize LSC services are women.
- Cut $6 billion from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), eliminating programs like the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). HUD provides housing assistance for low income individuals, with the majority living in public housing where 75% of households are headed by women.
President Trump’s budget is not a veiled threat. Rather, it is a statement about the values and beliefs he holds for women and particularly those struggling to get by and do better in America.
Donald Trump’s threats to women extend well beyond his proposed budget. Trump’s Supreme Court Justice nominee should sound the alarm for women everywhere, and those who care for them. 10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch has a judicial record that reveals an imminent threat to women’s rights and the continued fight for equality in several ways.
- Donald Trump vowed to nominate a Supreme Court Justice who would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade, the ruling which extends a woman’s right to choose as a right to privacy under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. Judge Gorsuch has been critical of the right to privacy and repeatedly argued against the legal principles upon which Roe was decided.
- Judge Gorsuch’s judicial record suggests a disregard for a woman’s right to access healthcare, as evidenced by his dissent and argument that the court should have allowed Utah to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood in the case of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah v. Herbert. Planned Parenthood has been instrumental in providing preventive services to poor and low-income women. These essential preventive services, which include contraceptives, cervical cancer screenings, family planning, and education on sexually transmitted diseases, have literally saved lives.
- In Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius, a case about religious freedom, women’s equality and the rights of employers, Judge Gorsuch ruled in favor of protecting the religious preferences of employers by allowing a for-profit corporation to refuse to comply with the Affordable Care Act, which mandates the coverage of contraception through health insurance.
Since its creation in 1987, Women’s History Month has recognized the positive and progressive impact of women on American history and the seemingly never ending quest for equality. But sadly this year it’s been marked by actions that could drastically impede women’s rights and progress. The President’s actions do not empower women, but instead aim to strip both their rights and access to opportunity by implementing numerous barriers.
At FPWA, fulfilling the promise of opportunity for all, is what our work is about. We stand firm against efforts to deprive women, and especially women of little or no means, the opportunity to work towards and live the American dream.
Jennifer Jones Austin is the CEO and Executive Director at FPWA and is co-host of a segment about poverty and national policy for the nationally syndicated radio show, Keepin’ It Real with Rev. Al Sharpton, which airs Thursdays at 2:00 pm ET.