Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site

Trump moves against vulnerable women



No-one doubted that Donald Trump's ascendancy would deeply fracture the world as we know it. But few of us could have anticipated the swiftness with which his orders would impact some of the world's most disadvantaged citizens: vulnerable, impoverished women.

Donald TrumpWith just one signature, the newly-installed president snatched from these women access to services that are essential to their physical and mental wellbeing and their economic prospects — and, in so doing, endangering countless lives.

The global gag order signed by Trump on Monday requires health organisations that receive funding from the US to refrain from providing abortion services and advice on abortion, even if the money is not used to fund such services.

Since the bulk of these organisations' work involves the provision of contraception to communities in developing nations, Trump has effectively removed the right of millions of women to decide when to have children and how many they will have.

In denying these women contraception, he is effectively forcing them to carry, bear and raise every child they conceive, whether through traditional marriage or child marriage, rape or incest or consensual sex.

It's a deliberately spiteful and manipulative ploy: spiteful because he is hurting vulnerable women whose healthcare practitioners will refuse to submit to such coercion; manipulative because he is engineering a crisis among disadvantaged women that will set them back decades and strip them of the tiny bit of autonomy they currently have.

It's deliberate because he is assuaging conservatives and the religious right, who helped bring him to power and who are determined that America's landmark Roe versus Wade Supreme Court decision — which recognises a woman's right to make her own personal medical decisions, including the decision to have an abortion — be overturned.

And it ignores the basic fact of biology: that though it takes two people to conceive a baby, only one of them is required to bear physical responsibility for its growth and birth. Too often — especially in impoverished countries — this woman must bear financial responsibility for her offspring as well.


"Here was an obscenely wealthy man imposing his beliefs on women he will never meet, whose stories he will never hear and whose circumstances he will never seek to understand."


This grassroots reality makes the context in which Trump signed the order all the more galling: here was an obscenely wealthy man, one whose wife and daughters have access to the best care — and contraception — money can buy, one who has probably never in his life entered a slum or the home of an overwrought mother-of-ten or a rehabilitation centre for sex trafficked girls or a rape survivors' clinic, imposing his beliefs on women he will never meet, whose stories he will never hear and whose circumstances he will never seek to understand.

Surrounded by seven white men (and not a single woman) he reinforced his much-demonstrated belief that women are objects to be controlled — and enjoyed — by men. And while not the first Republican president to sign this order, Trump stamped it with his peculiar brand of malice by expanding it further still: where previously it applied only to family planning funding, it now applies to all global health assistance programs.

'This means that it puts at risk 15 times more funding, and millions more women and families,' writes Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen on her official Facebook page. 'This targets some of the most effective health organisations at work in the developing world. Without funding, these organisations won't be able to provide HIV services and maternal healthcare, or counsel women on the risks of Zika infection.'

It's a message that underscores Trump's determination to wield power over women's lives by dictating the terms of their fertility. As the feminist Gloria Steinem said in an interview in 2015, 'It took us a while to figure out, but patriarchy ... is about controlling reproduction. Every economics course ought to start not with production but with reproduction. It is way more important.'

But this attempt to control women's reproduction will not put an end to abortion. The statistics are clear: around 42 million women with unintended pregnancies undergo abortions each year, nearly half of them in unsafe circumstances, according to a 2009 study. Of these, around 68,000 women die, making abortion one of the leading causes of maternal mortality.

If Trump and his conservative and religious allies are determined to eradicate this procedure, they should direct aid to where it is needed most: in the provision of contraception. Studies prove that where contraception is readily available, women experience fewer unplanned pregnancies, abortions and maternal deaths.

'And when women have control over their reproductive health,' says Shaheen, 'it improves the long-term health of mothers and children and creates a lasting economic benefit.'

But if Trump can't be convinced to do the right thing by women, perhaps he should ask himself what he would do if he were in their shoes. Perhaps he would reach the same conclusion as the old Irish taxi driver Steinem once met in Boston: if men could get pregnant, she told Steinem, abortion would be a sacrament.


Catherine MarshallCatherine Marshall is a Sydney-based journalist and travel writer.

Topic tags: Catherine Marshall, Donald Trump, abortion, contraceptives



submit a comment

Existing comments

What's 'obscenely wealthy' got to do with the substance of this article? Is pro-'choice' J.J. Rowling 'obscenely wealthy', at USD 1 billion (as opposed to 3.7)? As to the substance of the article, sending contraceptives to the poor (courtesy of white men like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates) is like sending Coca Cola to third world victims of natural disasters, a few moments of 'time-out' from the baying realities at the door, but then what?

Roy Chen Yee | 26 January 2017  

While there is a definite need to advocate for women's rights and the needs of the most vulnerable. There also needs to a voice for the unborn in such advocacy.

L.Herden | 27 January 2017  

Dear Catherine, it has become very common for 'women's health' to mean any service connected with reproduction. It also seems common for educated and well-off women to champion access to abortion and contraception as their best effort to help their less well off sisters. If men are being neglectful and inconsiderate of women in their sexual relations with them, is the best that can be done to help offering these women access to the destructive solution of abortion? If poverty and lack of access to cheap abortion and contraception is the ultimate cause of unwanted pregnancy, why does the Royal Australian College of Obstetricians estimate there are at least 80,000 terminations of pregnancy done annually in Australia, where every women's health service is readily available, sex education in schools is part of the curriculum, and Internet access to sex education is highly accessible? Are you over-simplifying this very complex and difficult issue? Regards, Paul Burt

Paul Burt | 27 January 2017  

Trump's Order explicitly excludes victims of rape and/or incest from it's provisions and it applies to abortion not contraception. A contradiction of the pro case is that educated white western advocates don't see the irony in them wanting to terminate the lives of black, third world babies, fifty percent of them likely bring female.

HarryWho | 27 January 2017  

Well said Catherine.The photo of Trump and the 7 signing the document said it all. It's time religious organisations got out of people's bedrooms, telling them what they can and can't do with their bodies. Churches should be advocating strongly for the best possible health care for all women, regardless of the personal decisions they make in their lives.

Lawrence Wray | 27 January 2017  

As oblivious as the liberal media have been, the world has been fractured for years, you have just refused to listen. Trump has not divided; he is the man that a divided people have sent to speak for them. And as a Catholic, I wonder who will speak for the weakest, with no voice - the unborn children who are the victims of abortion. You may argue rights, but I am aware of no right that requires taking another's life to be satisfied.

Paul Triggs | 27 January 2017  

It is Donald Trump who has made this a simple issue. As a business man he is against Foreign Aid per se because he doesn't see America making any profit from it. He knows to be anti-abortion will deliver him conservative votes. It will also support his undermining of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Trump cannot put himself empathetically in the shoes of subjugated women, of the sick who cannot afford health insurance, of volunteers who work for nothing in foreign missions, But he does know how to manipulate the selfish prejudices of many Americans. Prejudices that blind them to the contradictions in his speeches and in his behaviour. One month condemning the whole US intelligence community and the next month praising them fulsomely as the defenders of truth, justice and the American way.

Uncle Pat | 27 January 2017  

I applaud Pres. Trump for doing so. Allowing abortion is not the answer for unwanted pregnancy. One must go back to God to realise that she is given a gift., a life. Women who contemplate abortion and people who support abortion are people who have not seen the light. God gives and only God takes away. God bless .

Mafy Lou Monck | 27 January 2017  

I thought Eureka being an inherently Catholic broadsheet would have core values to champion the "Catholic line" which is anti abortion. Heavens above, we have male Cardinals in Rome advising the Pope and they issue edicts colored with the veneer of infallibility, eg that it is a mortal sin for a divorced person to take communion. But it seems to me increasingingly, Eureka's manifesto is political correctness. Not doctrine. Not Christian values and teachings. Packer is worth more than Trump and no one is baying at his door about access to abortion for impoverished women.

francis Armstrong | 27 January 2017  

This article makes disturbing reading. Trump has lots of power now to enforce his agenda. Women's reproductive health is best determined by health professionals. Ethicists should also be listened to. Abortion is a difficult topic to discuss and write about. Writing from a personal viewpoint, I don't believe abortion should be used as a contraceptive option. If the mother's life is in danger because of difficulties with the pregnancy then that should be a decision between her and her doctor. No one else's business.

Pam | 27 January 2017  

This must be patriarchy at its worst. Trump has no interest in the welfare of the third-world born, let alone the unborn. This is an obscenely wealthy man presuming to exercise control over the actions and decisions of extremely poor women (and men), including the use of condoms which has nothing whatsoever to do with threatening the life of the unborn.

Ginger Meggs | 27 January 2017  

There is something very arrogant about perceiving (casting) the rights of an unborn child being in opposition to the needs of their mother. It does not fit reality. The provision or not of contraception is about so much other than a voice for an unborn and not conceived child.

Jan | 27 January 2017  

The "great US of A" gave America and the women of the world the absolute means of control of female fertility with the contraceptive pill. It has also given the world through the contrived and fictitious case, Roe v Wade, abortion on a scale previously unimagined. America with easy access to fertility control has killed over 50,000,000 defenceless human lives in a mother's womb since 1970. The current population based surgical abortion rate in both the USA and Australia is 0.017 %, compared with China's rate of 0.015% at the height of its compulsory one child policy. And China is supposed to be backward and inhumane in many quarters. In the last 3 years, 28 States in America have scaled back their pro-abortion laws. France has also done so over the last year. None of the legislatures has ever recognised the father's role in pregnancy or ascribed any rights to the father or unborn child. The feminist reaction to Trump is merely an expression of their "right" to destroy human life when they don't posses the sense or responsibility to practice safe contraception. Meanwhile Victoria and Tasmania have introduced the most retrogressive pro-abortion laws in the world, with abortion paid for by the taxpayer through the government national health insurance scheme, Medicare.

john frawley | 27 January 2017  

Abortion kills preborn children. It opposes the universal c9nvention 9n the rights of the child, which states, "the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special care, including apropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth." Killing humans is not a good solution for any problem, but preborn babies, including girls, are the most vulnerable, innocent and defenceless of allmembers of the human family. Women will never get social and economic justice if all we offer them is the means to kill their children. Animals fi g t to protect their children. Kiling preborn babies is cruel, barbaric and inhumane.

Katrina haller | 27 January 2017  

I have to agree with Francis that the PC of Eureka St is getting increasingly irritating and frustrating. But, I would also say that there has been big problem, with perhaps the Church a major culprit, in so closely lumping "contraception" and "abortion" so closely together. The former should be matter of conscience for the couple involved, while the latter I believe is ways wrong, though perhaps in some circumstances in this messy world the lesser of evils. Over-simplifying complex moral issues has become the style in dogmatic Rome, which TG Pope Francis is trying to do something about. If church agencies could provide contraceptives to couples in good faith, but leave abortions off the menu, then this could work. Of course one lo needs to do something about the socio-economic issues and sexual violence that drives poor women to abortion as a way out of desperate situations. Trump and conservative Catholics should not have their cake and enjoy eating it.

Eugene | 27 January 2017  

As well as a Post-truth era, there was a Pre-Truth era. Both have much in common. In the pre-truth era, there were many beliefs that were not really true, but in the circumstances, were ‘true-enough’. e.g., ‘The earth is flat’. The spherical aspect of the earth does not matter much until very long journeys are taken. Even today local road maps are made as if the world was flat. Similarly, when encountering what we still refer to as ‘Acts of God’, it was believed ‘God did it’. It was left to science to reveal just HOW God did it; I.e., by constant and universal laws. So, the claim was ‘true-enough’. When uncontrollable events happen, we must accept them as challengers from God to respond with grace as best we can. What both eras have in common is that ‘My interpretation is the only one that matters’;.. at least if I have the power to enforce it. So it is with Trump, and with many of our ‘Traditions'. What everything needs is Pope John’s aggiornamento, IF it can be properly managed.

Robert Liddy | 27 January 2017  

Well put, Catherine. The most interesting part is found in the comments. So much rigid, uptight certainty among the devout. And I expect letters are even now winging their way to the Jesuit Superior General, the Pope, the Inquisition and probably Cory Bernardi pointing out the dreadful things being done by the Australian SJs.

Frank | 27 January 2017  

Francis Armstrong:""Catholic line" which is anti abortion". The Catholic line IS. or should be, an Ideal. As is fidelity within marriage. But Jesus did not condemn the Samaritan woman who was living with someone not her husband, or the woman taken in adultery. Ideals are to be promoted as positions to be aimed for, not always to be enforced harshly, regardless of circumstances. As Pope Francis said regarding homosexuality, "If they are seeking God, who am I to judge?"

Robert Liddy | 27 January 2017  

Let's not forget that one of the main root causes for women seeking abortions is the disrespect men have towards women - and I'm not talking about rape - simply the animal urge to impregnate with no desire to support woman or child. I'm sure Trump knows a lot about this attitude of objectify women and grabbing them by the "p.....". What hypocrisy!

AURELIUS | 27 January 2017  

I'm disappointed at most of the comments here as well as the original article. As Paul Burt rightly observes the issue is complex. Reinstating the so called 'global gag policy ' was always going to happen under a newly elected Republican President. What however has changed since Ronald Reagan first introduced the policy in 1984 is that we now have clear evidence from across the world (including Australia) that the ready availability of legal abortion goes hand in hand with a decrease in the actual number of abortions. In Australia that may be due to improved counselling, but worldwide it is almost certainly linked to improvement in the quality of reproductive health services in general. That includes contraception on the one hand and safer childbirth on the other. This is the real problem with defunding agencies rather than (as has traditionally been the case with Australian aid) deciding whether or not to fund particular programs. Do we really support taking the moral high ground (with other people's lives) or would we prefer to reduce the number of abortions?

Margaret | 27 January 2017  

Eugene. What you say re contraception is very apt. However, contraception s te Church seems to understand it may not necessarily be an evil, "lesser" or otherwise. The truth is that conception, i.e.being with child, does not occur with fertilisation of an ovum but with implantation of that ovum in a mother's womb some 6-7 days later. The prevention of implantation is true contraception for which there are a number of available contraceptives. The ridding of an implanted fertilised ovum is abortion, something also accomplished by abortifacient drugs under the guise of "contraceptives". There is no inevitability of producing a human life with fertilisation and many fertilised ova are never implanted naturally. Once implanted in a normal womb, however, human life is the inevitable outcome provided the mother does not suffer some illness leading to natural miscarriage (spontaneous abortion). The Church needs to catch up with the science of conception just as it needed to catch up with the true nature of Galileo's universe. The science suggests that in terms of human life the prevention of fertilisation does not represent the destruction of human life and thus is not inherently immoral, whereas the prevention of implantation is immoral but to a lesser degree than destruction of an already implanted fertilised ovum in a healthy womb where there is no bar to the inevitability of a fully developed human life. Heresy, perhaps? I suspect I will discover the answer to that when I discuss the matter with my Maker when we meet.

john frawley | 27 January 2017  

I think Frank is confusing 'rigid, uptight certainty' with clarity about the rights of the unborn. I am disappointed to see this article in Eureka Street and thank the respondents for making the case against the further abuse of women that is allowed through the provision of abortion.

Deborah | 27 January 2017  

The comments here seem to be predominantly from males. Abortion is morally and ethically wrong as it terminates the life of the unborn, defenceless foetus who had no say in its creation. When done for economic reasons or for the convenience of the woman, then the culpability is serious. In cases of medical abortion to save the life of the mother, the decision is ethical. As a male, I strongly oppose abortion ,excluding medical . In the Philippines where contraception is still strongly opposed by the Church, to prevent women from controlling their fertility is oppressive. The male has no responsibility, nor does he face sanction , yet the women is condemned to a life of poverty, lack of education and financial independence as she has to deal with pregnancy after pregnancy .Even in the Philippines, children cost many sacrifices for women to raise, maybe more so than Australia, since the social security system is primitive compared to ours. I am alarmed if Trump's executive order stops the provision of reproductive education or contraception being provided to these people. I agree if the male had to bear and raise a child, the boot would be on the other foot!

Gavin | 27 January 2017  

Would the Pope support this proposal? 'The global gag order signed by Trump on Monday requires health organisations that receive funding from the US to refrain from providing abortion services and advice on abortion, even if the money is not used to fund such services'.

Peter Morgan | 27 January 2017  

This article is important as it highlights the issues of imposing western perspectives as solutions for developing nations and its assumptions are there to be challenged as John Frawley (Jan 27) and others have done. The language used seems to confound issues. Reproductive health refers linguistically to good health in relation to reproduction thus the ability to bear and deliver children. Catherine Hamlin is looking out for the reproductive health of women in Ethiopia through treating fistulas. (http://hamlin .org.au). Dr Kirby, a retrained carpenter, reduces maternal deaths in PNG through a program he designed. (http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2015/06/11/australian-doctors-initiative-reduces-png-maternal-deaths-78-cent). Reproductive choice would then refer to when and how a woman becomes pregnant which can be interfered with through abuse (human trafficking, rape) which Harry Who (27 Jan) points out are still provided for and there have been instances of women choosing not to abort (http://afterabortion.org/2012/abortion-doesnt-help-rape-victims-say-women-whove-been-there/) though this should be an informed choice and is not for everyone. As for contraception it has to be an informed choice and some will choose to use this to symbolise their independence yet when it was being developed, it was tested on women (of colour) many of whom died or were forced to undergo sterilisation (https://mic.com/articles/113022/the-dark-history-of-birth-control-that-you-haven-t-heard#.lMTJgM2Tf).

Gordana Martinovich | 29 January 2017  

The anti-abortion posts (I am anti-abortion) have presented their /our point of view well. It would be helpful if Eureka Street ran a comprehensive feature on the case against abortion also dealing with the state of the abortion laws (Victoria is appalling, and an appalling Bill will soon be dealt with in Queensland). The adverse impact on men, as well as on women, should not be overlooked.,I realise Eureka Street resources are limited. The catechism of the Catholic Church (St Pauls Unabridged pocket edition) carries a very good section on abortion. I won't try to give a reduced version here but human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.

Rod Manning | 30 January 2017  

Gavin writes 'Half the comments are from males' well given that half the lives being aborted are males, and 100% of babies being conceived have an XY chromosome from a biological father , it seems completely fair that men have an opinion about abortion, and are free to express it. If women expect men to care about their BORN babies, then they need to accept (and welcome) that men also feel passionate about their UNBORN babies. Makes sense really.

Cathy | 30 January 2017  

Does anyone here really believe that Trump and his three wives and his allegedly various girlfriends have not used contraceptives to manage their fertility? Or that the men who stood by him when he signed the order have not used contraceptives? Trump's directive has nothing to do with right or wrong; it's simply a way of retaining the support of the religious right.

Ginger Meggs | 30 January 2017  

iS Eureka Street aware if Humanae Vitae and such magisterial teaching??

Father John George | 10 February 2017  

Although abortion as a contraceptive is not on, the idea that a woman who is raped and 'made' to carry the baby full term is quite horrifying to me. Only people who have never experienced pregnancy and child birth would be opposed to this .

Helen | 22 February 2017  

Similar Articles

Bread and circuses in modern Australia and America

  • Julie Davies
  • 24 January 2017

I can understand the Trump phenomenon. Hard-working Americans and many Australians are blaming various minorities as responsible for their decline. They are being blinded to the real culprits: our own governments and their wealthy backers. Juvenal's 'bread and circuses', designed to keep the people docile and distracted in Ancient Rome, have been updated to Maccas and manufactured news. And hatred. Are we so easily manipulated? Is the American model the future Australia wants for itself?


Manning mercy belies double standard on whistleblowers

  • Binoy Kampmark
  • 19 January 2017

Manning became the victim of an institutional drive to target whistleblowers, with the centrepiece of the prosecution focusing on computer crimes and the Espionage Act. Despite the eventual commutation of her 35 year sentence, the severity of that sentence demonstrated the gulf between the cosy, public relations air of an administration keen to project certain achievements and its stomping on those keen to disclose inappropriate and illegal conduct in the security and intelligence services.