Trump Health Czar Tom Price Is a Nightmare for Women
The week before the election, I wrote a half tongue-in-cheek piece about how women can hedge their electoral bets by getting IUDs as soon as possible, just in case Donald Trump won (ha ha, right?). And then he did, and the column went from reading as a joke invoking hand-wringing for intended comedic effect to something that read as serious food for thought for women of reproductive age. In the ensuing days, other publications called for similar courses of action, widely based on speculation about what a Trump-Pence administration would do to the Affordable Care Act, or to access to reproductive health services in general.
At the time, nobody knew exactly how Donald Trump would handle the contentious issue of government involvement in women’s reproductive healthcare. But now that Trump has nominated Rep. Price for the HHS role, we have something a little more concrete to go on.
Price helming HHS is a nightmare scenario for advocates of reproductive choice, and a dream for those with a nostalgia for the time before Roe v. Wade, if not Griswold v. Connecticut. During his 11-year tenure in Congress, Price has not cast a single pro-choice vote. His record in issues of birth control and choice last year earned him a 0% rating from Planned Parenthood, an organization that even his new boss Donald Trump acknowledges does some good work (even though Donald Trump has also said that women who have abortions should face some form of punishment, except maybe not).
Likely future Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price has never met an anti-abortion cause he won’t rally behind. In 2005, he co-sponsored a bill in the House that would have defined human life as beginning at the moment of conception. That would have turned many forms of contraception—IUDs, the morning-after pill, and good old hormonal birth control pills—into potential implements of murder in the eyes of the law, as well as outlawing most abortions. In vitro fertilization would also get much more complicated if the government officially recognizes zygotes as just as human and alive as, say, a 10-year-old child or likely future Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price. The concept of “personhood,” as that particular belief became known in more recent years, was so far to the right that when in 2011, when it was put up for a public vote in blood-red Mississippi, it failed by a significant margin.
When personhood proved electorally untenable and logically ridiculous (If a zygote has the same rights as any other alive human being, does a zygote have free speech rights? Does a miscarriage count as suicide or murder? Do law enforcement agencies hire zygote enforcement divisions, or do regular police suddenly become experts at detecting zygote misdeeds?), Price threw his support behind other anti-abortion causes, like a nationwide ban on pregnancy terminations that occur beyond 20 weeks. The vast majority of abortions in the U.S. occur before the 12-week mark, and most that occur after 20 weeks occur because of serious health concerns on the part of either the mother or fetus.
Price’s extreme beliefs on women’s health extend beyond abortion. His voting record shows he’s a proponent of so-called “conscience clauses,” which allow medical practitioners’ personal beliefs to dictate what sort of reproductive health care they provide their female patients, without regard for what the woman wants or what is physically best for her. He also supports the right of insurance companies and other entities to invoke their consciences in denying women insurance coverage for birth control. Every little girl dreams of one day growing up and falling in love and one day, when a squeamish insurance executive decides it’s time to stop paying for healthcare that enables women to have non-procreative sex, getting accidentally pregnant.
But wait. There’s more. Rep. Price is a longtime supporter of defunding Planned Parenthood, errantly claiming that funding the family planning and sexual health-focused organization was akin to taxpayer funding of abortions (thanks to the Hyde Amendment, it’s been illegal for any federal program to fund virtually any abortion since 1976). Earlier this year, Price told ThinkProgress that the government had no role in ensuring access to birth control because “not a single” woman in America has had difficulty accessing it. The truth is that birth control access continues to be a struggle for many women, and would be made much more difficult if other ideas Price champions, like personhood or defunding clinics that provide birth control to women who couldn’t otherwise afford it or conscience clauses that apply to insurance companies, became law.
Price’s views are about in line with Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who as governor of Indiana signed a law requiring funerals for miscarried or aborted fetuses. They’re not exactly outside of the pro-life mainstream in American politics; a law slightly more toned-down than Pence’s went into effect in Texas today; this one requires cremation or burial for aborted fetuses.
Two men with the future President’s ear represent some of the most extreme anti-abortion views we’ve seen in the White House in nearly a decade. It’s not unreasonable for American women to take time between now and January 20 to sit down and consider what they’d like to do with their uteruses for the next four years. Because if you don’t, more than one man in the incoming presidential administration would be happy to do it for you.