President Trump’s Policies on Pregnancy

It can be difficult to know the actual policy positions of a politician when it comes to topics as emotionally charged as pregnancy. In the United States, with any presidential administration, uncertainty surrounding such issues can result from compromises between groups of differing opinions. It can result from the President, or close advisors of the President, actually changing an opinion after studying the issue carefully. It can result from the realization of the funding needed to support government programs that would enable the policy, or from disagreements with members of the US Congress, which passes laws and decides how government money is spent. But, with the current administration, there are additional factors. President Trump changes his mind quite often, and not merely over the course of months, say from the campaign season when he made a promise to the time when he is in office. He does it over much shorter periods of time, even over the course of a few minutes, such as during the same speech, when he looks away from the teleprompter and starts improvising. He does it while he is tweeting. In late March, 2019, for instance, the Trump Administration announced that it was directing NASA to return humans to the surface of the Moon by 2024 and, to make this happen, the NASA budget would be increased by $1.6 billion for the 2020 fiscal year. Vice President Pence was to be in charge of the effort. Then, in early June, President Trump tweeted that “NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon – We did that 50 years ago. They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part)”.  Never mind the part about the Moon being part of Mars; few experts think that he meant it literally. In any case, soon after the tweet, the chief of NASA announced that, actually, the United States was still planning to send people back to the Moon in 2024 and, within days, the Trump Administration was saying more or less the same thing, that we should ignore the tweet.

Okay, so how does this relate to pregnancy?

It relates, because pregnancy is connected with a plethora of emotionally-charged issues, including but not limited to abortion rights, maternity leave, research on artificial wombs, embryonic stem cells, storage of human embryos and use of human embryos for therapies and research, intensive care for extremely premature neonates, funding for gene therapy, and adoption. We will look at where the Trump Administration seems to stand on a few of these issues, the few for which information is available. But in doing this, given the history of a President exemplified by the Moon story outlined above, just keep in mind that, when it comes to Trump himself, you should take all of this with a grain of salt. On the other hand, with certain policies, there is enough of a trend to make clear the policy positions of the President’s party and the advisors around him.

So, here we go. On the issue of abortion, as US president, Donald Trump has be anti-abortion, meaning against a woman’s right to choose, regardless of the pro-choice positions that he took many years ago, long before running for the presidency. As US president, he has stated that he would favor a complete abortion ban, especially after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of rape or incest, or when the mother’s life is threatened. Trump’s has nominated various opponents of choice for high positions. Such people include Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch and the former US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, although the current Attorney General, William Barr, evaded questions regarding whether he would protect a woman’s right to abortion, as established in 1973. That was a result of the famous United States Supreme Court case, Roe versus Wade. Subsequent to the Roe vs. Wade decision, various anti-abortion groups have attempted to create laws in some US states requiring husbands to give consent for their wives to have an abortion (read my article Does Elective Abortion Require Consent From Both Parents? here). The US courts have ruled all such laws unconstitutional, but various groups opposed to abortion seek to get the US Congress to pass laws that violate Roe vs. Wade, and to get judges appointed to federal courts, including the US Supreme Court, whose philosophical leaning suggest that they would try to overturn that 1973 decision. Many such groups support Mr. Trump and his efforts, and so, all in all, Trump is an anti-choice president.

Additionally, the Trump Administrated has stated its desire to defund Planned Parenthood, which helps women obtain abortions, but also helps many more women – millions of them – to obtain low cost contraceptive therapy to avoid getting an unwanted pregnancy in the first place. Planned Parenthood also provides women with other forms of healthcare, including screening for cervical cancer and other types of cancer. In the past, President Trump has referred to Planned Parenthood as “an abortion factory” (which it is not). One other factor related to abortion policy in the Trump administration comes from Vice President Pence, who has stated his hopes that Roe v. Wade will end up on “the ash heap of history”.

On top of this, the Trump Administration seeks to get the Affordable Care Act repealed, which would mean that contraceptive care would be less available for many families, along with other forms of health care. The take-home message of all of this is that the policies of President Trump are neither favorable to the right to abort nor to contraception.

When it comes to the issue of family leave, or maternity leave, the Trump administration has portrayed itself as being pro-family, pro-mothers, and pro-fathers because it has called for a program for new parents to obtain six weeks of paid family leave. However, the proposal has been criticized as being actually anti-parent, anti-family, and bad for low income parents, because of the source that would make the leave “paid” –namely that the parents would draw early from their Social Security fund.

David Warmflash
Dr. David Warmflash is a science communicator and physician with a research background in astrobiology and space medicine. He has completed research fellowships at NASA Johnson Space Center, the University of Pennsylvania, and Brandeis University. Since 2002, he has been collaborating with The Planetary Society on experiments helping us to understand the effects of deep space radiation on life forms, and since 2011 has worked nearly full time in medical writing and science journalism. His focus area includes the emergence of new biotechnologies and their impact on biomedicine, public health, and society.

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