Women pay the price again

Being unwilling to view Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as anything other than two sides of the same coin has come at a terrible cost, writes Lizzy Dobres

Just two days after millions of women and men worldwide campaigned for women’s rights; Donald Trump banned federal funds being used for family planning clinics in one of his first acts as president. This signals that the illiberal policies used on the campaign trail were not just part of a rhetoric to win over disgruntled Americans, but a blueprint for how Trump intends to govern.

The executive order re-implemented the Mexico City policy, which was first implemented by Ronald Reagan in 1984, but withdrawn by Barack Obama in 2009. It outlaws giving government funding to non-governmental organisations that offer services like abortion and advice on reproductive issues to women and families.

The most prominent of these organisations is Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of abortions. Planned Parenthood received $553m from the government in 2014, almost 50 per cent of its total revenue. Although these funds cannot be used to pay for abortions, they are vital to the maintenance the organisation and the services it provides. The policy will, first and foremost, hit vulnerable families and women. Planned Parenthood is used particularly by families from low-income backgrounds as a last resort, with 80 per cent of its facilities being situated in low-income areas.

Attacking family planning clinics represents a sharp contrast with Hillary Clinton’s long list of pledges to improve the lives of women across the US, including her pledge to ‘defend women’s health and access to abortion, not just in theory, but in reality’.

Many leftwingers across the US saw Clinton’s centre-left campaign as not radical enough or not anti-establishment enough to achieve real change. They saw the defeat of Bernie Saunders as an excuse to protest and not cast their vote in favour of the chosen Democratic candidate; some did not vote at all and some even cast protest votes for Trump. Their arguments may well have been earnest – but to most American voters Sanders was too far leftwing and stood a far worse chance of winning than Clinton. When the stubbornness of ideology takes over and people start casting their vote for far-right candidates, instead of others on the left, because of slightly different ideological dispositions, it takes the leftwing movement back decades.

Last year marked the 100-year anniversary of Planned Parenthood and, since the time of its creation in 1916, women’s rights have come so far. Are they now about to be dragged 100 years backwards by the most powerful man in the world, and could this be due to the left’s unwillingness to compromise?

Policies like enabling access to abortion matter. They change people’s lives. They save people’s lives. We must ask ourselves how some of us on the left were able to see Clinton and Trump as two sides of the same coin, when the result of this attitude has such far-reaching consequences. Is supporting only a far-left candidate at the cost of all others worth the risk of electing leaders like Trump, who put the lives of millions of women at risk worth it? The danger of becoming too focused on ideology, and not focused enough on reality, is staring us in the face.

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Lizzy Dobres is a Labour party activist. She tweets at @LizDobres

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