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Friday Femorandum: Fake Clinics, Real Consequences

Women in Seattle and the rest of King County, Washington, had reason to celebrate this week, when the King County Board of Health voted to adopt a new rule requiring “crisis pregnancy centers”—fake “clinics” run by anti-choice nonprofits that bait pregnant women with promises of medical care and counseling, then try to talk them out of having abortions—to disclose the fact that they do not actually provide any health-care services. Starting in one month, CPCs will have to display a large sign declaring “This is not a health-care facility” in 10 different languages, and include the same information on all their promotional materials.

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CPCs generally provide pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, and may offer samples of formula and diapers. Their main purpose, however, is to frighten women out of terminating even risky pregnancies by providing misinformation about abortion and birth control, including claims that abortion leads to cancer, suicide, and “post-abortion syndrome.”

Rewire, The Stranger, Q13, and MyNorthwest covered the Thursday vote. (KIRO, typically the most conservative of Seattle’s local news outlets, did a one-sided story that repeated false talking points from opponents and did not include any interviews or perspective from the proponents of the new rule, which passed on Thursday with just one dissenting vote).

Senate Republicans’ noxious health care bill is dead, so you may be tempted to breathe a sigh of relief. Not so fast, though—not only do Republicans who supported the bill, and President Donald Trump, hope to revive it as “repeal and delay”—that is, eliminate Obamacare and replace it with nothing, ending health care coverage for 32 million Americans—the GOP has found other ways of cutting women’s health care without repealing the Affordable Care Act altogether. Rewire reports that the US House Appropriations Committee approved budgets for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and education that include deep cuts to family planning programs. Notably, the bill eliminates $286 million in funding for family planning through the Title X program, which provides health care to low-income people.
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Additionally, the committee cut $6.4 million in funding for the Office of Women’s Health and $11.4 million for the Office of Minority Health.

Six months after Trump sat in the Oval Office surrounded by white men and signed off on the reinstatement and expansion of the global gag rule–a law that bans US funding for organizations that provide or even discuss abortion anywhere in in the world—the Guardian takes a look at how the rule is playing out worldwide.

As much as $10bn (£7.7bn) of global health funding hangs in the balance. Among those who will lose money if they refuse to sign up to the anti-abortion orthodoxy are the two big international family planning organisations, Marie Stopes International (MSI) and the IPPF. But for the first time, global NGOs such as Save the Children, WaterAid and the International HIV/Aids Alliance are also targeted.

The effects will be felt most keenly in the tiny, frontline clinics run by small NGOs struggling to help women and children in crowded townships, refugee camps and remote rural villages. There are no abortion doctors in such places (in most African countries, abortion is banned unless the woman’s life is in danger). These clinics instead offer contraceptive injections and condoms for those who would struggle to feed numerous children. But they also treat children for malaria and malnutrition and their mothers for HIV. This integrated care is now under threat.

The Trump administration’s antipathy toward women’s rights is so great that organizations like Save the Children (and, the piece goes on to note, the UN Population Fund) will suffer if they refuse to comply with administration policies. And if they do comply, they can no longer provide potentially life-saving services and information to women. No matter what organizations do, as long as the global gag rule is in place, women and their families around the world will suffer.

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But what’s behind Trump’s assault on women’s physical autonomy? Michele Goldberg, writing at the New York Times, has a theory: He wants to “accomplish legislatively” what he has bragged about doing to women physically—manhandling their bodies.  In a piece aptly titled “The Playboy President,” Goldberg notes the “deeply insulting irony” that an “erotically incontinent libertine”—a President whose resume includes a cameo in a softcore porn video, and who gleefully bragged about being able to grab women “by the pussy”—is spearheading what could be the most significant rollback of women’s rights since the days before Roe v. Wade. “Mr. Trump doesn’t care about women’s health or rights, and it’s easy to outsource policy to the activists of the religious right who helped elect him,” Goldberg concludes. “When you’re the president, they let you do it.”

Oh—and lest you think the judicial branch will be an effective check on the Trump Administration’s worst excesses, consider this: John Bush, the latest youthful judge to receive a Trump nomination to a lifetime seat on the federal bench, is an unqualified anti-choice blogger who has compared abortion to slavery. His nomination to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals sailed through the Senate on Thursday.

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