Keeping Focused - The First Month of the New Administration

As we come to the close of the first month of the Trump administration, little could have been predicted by the events of week one. Federal level attacks on reproductive freedoms and healthcare continued, and attacks on immigration ramped up. 

Week two:

January 27th - Trump signed an executive order indefinitely suspending admissions for visa and refugee applications from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia, with no exceptions for the over 8 million Syrian children affected by ongoing war. Although they have waffled on the terminology, Trump and various members of his staff has referred to this executive order as a “Muslim ban.” Former New York mayor and Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani confirmed the intent in an interview on Fox News, where he stated that he was asked by Trump to create a “Muslim ban” that would stand up to legal scrutiny. Trump stated that Christians will be given priority for refugee status.

January 30th - Trump fires acting Attorney General, Sally Yates for instructing the Department of Justice not to defend Trump’s travel ban.

January 31st - Despite preliminary reports stating that Trump’s “fiery stance” was putting pressure on pharmaceutical companies to renegotiate prices with possible bipartisan support, Trump backed down on his campaign promise to lower pharmaceutical prices. After threatening pharmaceutical companies with forced price bidding showed a corresponding drop in pharmaceutical and biotechnology stocks, Trump reneged, and instead promised lower taxes, fewer regulations, and less foreign competition.

Democrats boycott confirmation hearings for Tom Price (R-GA) for Health and Human Services Secretary, and Steven Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary to allow more time to examine potential conflicts of interest.

Neil Gorsuch is declared Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court seat left open by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia on February 13th, 2016. Gorsuch notably argued that a mandate requiring employer paid health plans cover contraceptives would violate a business owner’s religious beliefs. Despite republicans blocking the confirmation hearings of Obama nominee, Merrick Garland, from the time of Scalia’s death until now, congressional republicans expect confirmation hearings for Gorsuch to be met with no resistance.

Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) reintroduce the EACH Woman Act, which moves to reduce financial barriers for women seeking abortions, and prevents abortion access from being stripped from private and public health insurance plans. Louisiana representative Cedric Richmond (D-LA 2) co-sponsored the bill.

February 1st - Republicans suspended committee rules requiring at least one member of each party to be present for a vote in order to advance the nominations of Price (R-GA) and Mnuchin.

The Nation reported on a leaked draft of a possible “Religious Freedom” executive order. The full text of the draft explicitly outlines that “Americans and their religious organizations will not be coerced by the Federal Government into participating in activities that violate their conscience,” specifying a broad definition for “Religious Organization” that includes for-profit corporations whose purposes are not exclusively religious. The bill goes on to declare that religious freedoms are not to be forfeited while providing social services, education, or healthcare, while employing or hiring others, or “otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State, or local governments,” and explicitly allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services to suspend the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act. What this means is that any person can be denied services, employment, healthcare, and more based on the religious beliefs of others.

February 2nd - A federal judge in Seattle temporarily halted Trump’s ban on travel to seven Muslim majority countries.

February 4th - CNN Politics reports that many of those affected by the travel ban are children seeking medical care, or who are reuniting with their families.

Week Three:

February 7th - A panel of three judges in the Ninth Circuit upheld the suspension of Trump’s travel ban. Trump broke with precedent to criticize the judges that ruled against the order.

After an all night session led by senate democrats, Betsy DeVos, a financial supporter of groups that promote abstinence only education and conversion therapy, is confirmed as the Secretary of Education, despite a lack of any discernible experience in the field. In her confirmation hearings, she was "confused" about provisions of the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and was unable to say whether or not she would uphold the campus sexual assault prevention provisions of Title IX. She is confirmed by an historical tie-breaking vote by Mike Pence.

February 8th - Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is confirmed as Attorney General, despite his colleague’s concerns about past conduct regarding race and his opposition to the Violence Against Women Act.

February 10th - Despite conflicts of interest, Tom Price (R-GA) was confirmed as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. In addition to repeated votes against birth control access, Price supports the Ryan Plan for Medicare, which will turn Medicare access into a voucher program and cut $500 million from the program.

February 12th - The New York Times reports that over 600 people across 11 states were arrested in targeted Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids, continuing policies that were implemented under President Obama. Under a January 25th executive order, the definition of criminal was vastly expanded to include those that are suspected by law enforcement and immigration officials of breaking the law.

Neil Gorsuch submitted a 68 page document explaining what he considered the 10 most significant cases that he presided over while on a federal appeals court, including his decisions opposing contraceptive access.

Week Four:

February 14th - Immigration agents detained a 23 year old undocumented immigrant and recipient of protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in Seattle. DACA allows legal work permits and paths to citizenship for those who entered the country illegally as children.

February 15th - A transgender undocumented woman was arrested in the El Paso County Courthouse minutes after receiving an order of protection alleging that she is a victim of domestic violence. It is suspected that her abuser tipped off immigration officials as to where she would be and when, leading to an arrest that El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal described as “unprecedented.”

February 16th - Despite Trump’s increasing support for the program, the White House continued a push to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Although this is not a comprehensive timeline of all of the actions taken in this administration’s first month, these are the events that are the most likely to shape the landscape of reproductive justice for the next four years and beyond. The Trump administration has made its priorities clear: contraceptive access, domestic violence and sexual assault protections, and clear paths for immigration are all under attack. These executive orders and actions prevent mothers and pregnant persons from being able to make the best decisions about their pregnancies, and drastically reduce educational opportunities for children and immigrants.

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