Two weeks ago, the people of Ireland voted overwhelmingly to repeal the country’s ban on abortion, restoring women’s right to make decisions about their bodies and their health.
Just four days earlier, here in the U.S., the Trump administration declared that the government knows better than women and their doctors, banning health care providers in the Title X program from referring any of their patients for abortion.
Voters in Ireland decided to trust women. By a landslide. In the U.S., President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are pandering to a tiny sliver of voters — who are deeply invested in maintaining the longstanding, lopsided distribution of power — by restricting the rights of more than half the population. And they’ll come to regret it.
The same energy that swept Ireland in late May — with countless people returning #HomeToVote, and celebrations in airport terminals and on the streets — has been coursing through American politics since November 2016. It generated the Women’s March, the largest demonstration in U.S. history, and led one in five Americans to protest in the last 16 months. Their number one motivation: women’s rights.
Me Too. Time’s Up. The failure of Trumpcare. Danica Roem. Doug Jones. Stacey Abrams. A record number of women running for office.
We have shown Trump, Pence, and their acolytes over and over that women are the most potent political force in the country. They’re not just ignoring us — they’re actively provoking us.
Title X, the national program for affordable birth control, cancer screenings, and STI testing and treatment, serves more than four million people each year. Tens of thousands of doctors, nurses, clinics, and hospitals participate with the goal of increasing access to care for people with low incomes. Under the Trump gag rule — which targets Planned Parenthood health centers, where 41 percent of patients who rely on Title X get care — doctors cannot provide abortion, doctors cannot tell their patients where to go to get an abortion, and patients are no longer guaranteed to get the best information and care.
And it’s only the latest attack.
On his first full day in office, President Donald Trump put in place the most sweeping global gag rule ever. Since then, his administration has tried to turn the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program into an abstinence-only-until-marriage program; taken away the protections that prevent employers from dictating what birth control their employees’ insurance will cover; and tried to block multiple young, undocumented women in their care from accessing safe, legal abortion. And Trump and Pence have egged on state politicians to attack abortion rights: For example, in Iowa, the governor signed a blatantly unconstitutional ban on abortion after six weeks, before many women even know they’re pregnant. And Arkansas has effectively banned medication abortion in the state.
The anti-woman, anti-autonomy agenda of the Trump-Pence administration is crystal clear. What remains to be seen is just how far the flag-bearers of a wobbling patriarchy will go to prop up their ideology.
Because there can be no doubt — the patriarchy is wobbling. Its adherents are desperately propping it up with anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ, racist, and ableist policies; with hate crimes and hate-filled rants online and in Manhattan restaurants; with the homicidal violence of “incels” — a group of men organizing online who believe they’re entitled to sex with women.
These are threads in the same ideological quilt that is, at its core, about controlling our bodies and our lives. The power of a man to lock his office door with a button on his desk in order to prey on women and the power to silence doctors about abortion are inextricably linked.
That’s why Planned Parenthood is always a target. We started more than 100 years ago with an idea much bigger than birth control — it was the idea that our bodies are our own. If they’re not, then we cannot be free, and we cannot be equal.
Today, women have more political power than ever before. We are more than half of voters. We earn more than half of all degrees. We are breadwinners in half of households. We have more control over whether and when to have children than any time in human history.
I believe we are well on our way to correcting those inequities. After all, it hasn’t even been 100 years since white women got the right to vote. Women of color — who have led progressive movements for decades — have in practice only been allowed to vote for 53 years, and continually have to ward off new attempts to block their access to the ballot box.
We have fought for every inch of progress we’ve made, and the attacks from Trump and people like him will only make us work harder to gain ground.
The move toward real equality is a good thing — and most people, including many men, know it.
But for some, women with power is a terrifying prospect. They believe their status depends on keeping women below them. In their eyes, our rise means they’re sinking. So they’re grabbing at regressive laws to keep women submerged and “in their place.”
As a former lifeguard, I can attest that it’s dangerous to be in the water with someone desperately trying to stay afloat. They’ll grab onto anything or anyone they think will save them.
You have to shake them off to save you both.