Analysis

Trump Presidency Threatens Women's Reproductive Rights

'Misogyny has been given legitimacy,' one expert says. 'Trump said during the campaign that women who have abortions have to be punished.'

Hundreds of anti-Donald Trump protesters demonstrate in New York City, November 11, 2016.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images, AFP

During the course of the American presidential campaign, it became evident that Donald Trump’s attitude toward women was abominable, especially after the leaked tape with his comments boasting about sexual harassment and the testimonies that came afterward. These revelations cropped up amid a race that had gender as a core issue due to the possibility that for the first time, a woman could become president of the United States.

Alongside this, the presidential debates aired the candidates' divergent stances on abortion. In the second debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump said that Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision which stated that any law prohibiting abortion is against the Constitution because it violates the right to privacy, would be automatically revoked in the wake of Trump’s appointments of new justices, and the issue would become subject to decisions by individual states. At the outset of his presidential term, Trump intends to appoint a conservative Supreme Court justice. If the liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 83, resigns from the court during his term because of her health, he is expected to appoint a second conservative justice in her stead.

“The worst case scenario with respect to women’s rights is that there will be no abortions, including in cases of rape and incest,” says Dr. Hadas Cohen, a visiting researcher at the Hebrew University Davis Institute for International Relations. “In my opinion, this is what his vice president, Mike Pence, wants. Pence is an extremist on this issue and represents the views of the Tea Party movement. Even if the situation doesn’t come to that, it is reasonable to assume that Trump will stop the public funding for clinics where abortions are performed.”

According to Dr. Israel Waismel-Manor of the Haifa University political science department, “When it comes to women’s rights, this election could turn out to be destructive. Since the ruling in 1973 there has been a bit of erosion in the right to abortion. In some states they are closing clinics, thereby forcing women to travel out of state. In other states they are requiring an ultrasound before an abortion to pressure the woman to refrain from the procedure. The Supreme Court, which is now conservative, approves these measures.”

Dr. Noya Rimalt of the Haifa University Faculty of Law, who has researched issues surrounding feminism in the American legal system, says that Trump’s election is a serious blow. “At the symbolic level, Trump’s election is a sad day for women,” she says. “There is no doubt that there were also misogynists among his voters. Expression like ‘bitch’ and ‘nasty woman’ that Trump used during the campaign are clear patriarchal stereotypes. The fact of Trump’s election affects everything about the boundaries between what is permissible and what isn’t. Misogyny has been given legitimacy. From the practical perspective, Trump’s appointment to the Supreme Court is liable to be decisive. Trump said during the campaign that women who have abortions have to be punished.”

However, it could be that Trump the president will be different from Trump the candidate. “In a less extreme scenario the situation will stay the way it is,” says Waismel-Manor. “Certain restrictions will remain in place – even today, for example, in the United States it is impossible to perform abortions in the third trimester of a pregnancy – but the status quo will be maintained. That said, it’s also possible to think about a more optimistic scenario in the opposite direction: Maybe Trump will in fact make the possibility of abortion more accessible. Maybe he will remember that he used to be a Democrat and return to his roots, but if that happens he will encounter opposition in the House of Representatives and the Senate, which are controlled by Republicans.”

Perhaps there will be a strong opposition movement by women who will say, “We are not prepared to be treated this way,” adds Cohen, “but the arena where things will be decided is the Supreme Court.”