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By rolling back contraception, Trump provides a conduit for backlash against women's independence: Westwood

Recently, Trump was being uncharacteristically straightforward when he noted it follows, if you view abortion as murder, women who have them should face consequences.

But when it comes to his administration's recent and dangerous roll-back of contraception coverage for potentially millions of women, Trump is really besides the point, writes Rosie Westwood.

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File

But when it comes to his administration's recent and dangerous roll-back of contraception coverage for potentially millions of women, Trump is really besides the point, writes Rosie Westwood.

It’s easy to view everything in America right now through the lense of Donald Trump.

But when it comes to his administration's recent and dangerous roll-back of contraception coverage for potentially millions of women, Trump is really besides the point.

He’s but a conduit for a backlash against women’s independence that centres on her sexuality, using reproduction as a means to control her body and her sex life, pushing her in the direction of sexual submission and motherhood in order to push her out of public life.

The anti-contraception movement is driven both to Christian leadership (though only 13 per cent of Catholics and 5 per cent of white evangelicals agree) and right-wing politicians.

As with many things, it’s an ideological fight with far more nuance and rigour than is Trump’s style: During the campaign he said both that contraception should be available without a prescription (the position of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists) and that women who have abortions should be punished. For political survival, he’s since aligned himself with those who unwaveringly consider birth control akin to abortion, and abortion akin to murder.

Trump was being uncharacteristically straightforward when he noted it follows, if you view abortion as murder, women who have them should face consequences. But anti-choice activists know a tough sell when they see one.

Religious freedom, on the other hand, is something about which all American’s ostensibly agree, and thus it was claimed as the basis for Trump’s May executive order that foreshadowed last week’s roll-back of a key Affordable Care Act provision, which required birth control be included in health coverage except in the case of employers with religious objections who were required to notify the government so that it could make-up the cost of the contraception. That provision addressed religious freedom.

But as of last Friday, Trump went far beyond that argument by allowing many more employers to immediately stop offering contraception coverage based merely on a moral objection — not even a religious one — that they neither have to prove, nor even inform the government about.

The Health and Human Services directive creates a wild west utopia for policing women's sexuality, restricting a key component of their ability to design their lives, and offering them nothing in return but the likelihood of an unwanted pregnancy. It makes the mere preferences of a woman’s employer more powerful than her own when it comes to her sexuality — a level of invasiveness that is truly breathtaking.

For the nearly half of women who use birth control for other health reasons as well, it also includes the loss of treatment.

The truth is that birth control is not a consumer good that women should bear the cost of as if it's a cup of coffee. It is an essential tool for equality, the means by which women live healthy lives, sexual and otherwise, equal to that of men. And it’s certainly not an agent, as the Trump administration claimed, of “risky sexual behaviour.” Studies show that contraception does not impact sexual behaviour and rates of sexual activity have been decreasing alongside the growth of available contraception.

It’s not even controversial: 96 per cent of Americans do not see contraception as immoral. Even for a president as unpopular as Trump, four per cent is a tiny constituency. But for those four per cent — what an incredible access to power. 

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