WORDS: Punk Food Bandita
Members of the Trump administration have attended a conference at the Hungarian Embassy aimed at promoting government policies that ‘encourages’ women to have more children using financial reward and blocking access to abortion and contraception. The conference called- and I swear I’m not making this up- ‘Make Families Great again’ was attended by White House Special Assistant Katy Talento, Strategic Communications Director Mercedes Schlapp and Human Services Senior Advisor Valerie Huber who spoke at the event. Talento co-wrote the US government’s proposal to remove the birth control provision from the Affordable Care act to take away coverage for more than 62 million women. Huber is a militant abstinence- only sex education advocate, which basically prevents young people from learning and accessing information about their own sexual and reproductive health. Abstinence education has been proven to not only be ineffective, but also harmful and often leading to an increase in teenage pregnancies where it is introduced.
Why is this concerning? Because every oppressive regime from Nazi Germany to Franco’s Spain has introduced some sort of programme which essentially reduces women to the status of breeding machines, and strips them of autonomy over their own reproduction and health. We have been here before and it has never ended well for anyone. When far right governments talk about ‘family’ policies, they aren’t talking about improving the outcomes for parents and children through more state support. They are talking about removing legislation that protects women, LGBTQ people, the disabled, and immigrants in order to achieve a ludicrous vision of a ‘pure’ race.
Mussolini wanted ‘submissive women and strong mothers’ in fascist Italy. He introduced marriage loans which did not have to be repaid if four or more children were born in the family, and Nazi Germany had a similar policy. In 1925 he launched the National Organisation for Maternity & Infants. On the surface this appears like a supportive initiative to give help to pregnant women and children. However its main function was to obstruct women’s access to birth control and terminations. Sound familiar? It should.
Hungary's far right Prime Minister Orbán's new 7 point family policy is eerily similar and since Trump became president in 2017, there has been a sharp decline in funding to women’s health services, particularly ones that provide access to abortion and contraception. His administration is teeming with right wing Christian dogmatics that has defunded services for sexual and reproductive health, which Trump justified by saying he was “pro-life” despite the fact that the federal funding was not used for terminations.
He also appointed a man called Scott Lloyd as director for refugee resettlement in 2017, despite him never having worked with this vulnerable client group before. Lloyd once stated that he felt contraception was the same as abortion and that he didn’t approve of it. While he was in post, he publically admitted to personally tracking the menstrual cycles of unaccompanied female minors. He made it a requirement for all pregnant minors to gain permission from him personally to get access to a termination and when pressed, he admitted he had never actually granted this once, including the case of a 17 year old rape victim who had to go to a higher court for the decision to be overturned. Following public outcry he was demoted in 2018 to Senior Advisor to the Center for Faith and Opportunity initiatives, but this positions still allows him to have some control over access to health care.
I don’t want to say it’s like the Handmaid’s Tale because it is such a massive cliché. But it is like The Handmaid’s Tale. On Tattooine. Where a large slug shaped Trump signs misogynistic policies handed to him by Mike ‘Salacious Crumb’ Pence as he casually drops enslaved Twi’lek dancers into the Rancor pit.
In politics, it is easy to let little events like this pass us by when there are so many other things to worry about right now, particularly so when it involves countries other than your own. But these are the things that we need to be vigilant about. While we can all agree that more relief is required for families, it should not just be the families that they approve of and not to the detriment of our health or those who don't fit in with their vision. We need to see this for what it is and don’t allow health policy to be shaped by religion or by people who demand children from us to further their ideas of dominance.