By Jessica Semler
Special to the Pittsburgh Current
Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”
This was great advice to college Jessica, who wasted time on annoying noncommittal bros. It’s also great advice for voters wondering what the hell Donald Trump might have in store if he’s given another four years to tear away at reproductive rights like they’re a withering piece of string cheese.
Now, some of you may be clutching your pearls and thinking, “why goodness gracious, Jessica. I just had no idea what Mr. Trump was going to do. I feel TERRIBLE and wish I knew then what I know now!” Hold that thought.
Let’s hop into the time machine to March 31, 2016, when then-candidate Donald Trump said about women who have abortions: “There has to be some form of punishment.” Now let’s shift to October 7, 2016. Washington Post released the Access Hollywood video exchange, and the following words were played on all media platforms thousands of times:
Trump: I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
Bush: Whatever you want.
Trump: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.
On the day the “grab ‘em by the pussy” business went down, I was writing the keynote speech for the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event to be held the next day. The event’s goal was for cis-men to raise awareness in their community about the serious causes, effects and remediations to men’s sexualized violence against women.
I was used to getting on mics and yelling about reproductive rights, but for the keynote I was sharing my personal story of being sexually assaulted when I was 18. I was already terrified at the level of vulnerability this demanded. While the assault happened years before, it was on my mind a lot in 2016. In the preceding months, before the video emerged, there were so many allegations about Trump’s sexual misconduct. Every time I saw men (and women) in my life supporting this man, despite that, it was a message to me, and every survivor, that rape is okay. My rape was okay. People hid behind words like “alleged,” or just calling these women liars, but I felt a pang of hope when the video of him bragging about grabbing a woman’s genitals came out. They have to listen now. They have to renounce their support for him now, right? Right? I added the following to my speech:
“By now, you’ve read about the video of Donald Trump talking about how he could do whatever he wants to women: grab them, grope them, etc. This has been written off by some as just guy talk or locker room banter. I can honestly say that reading about how someone who may be my President bragging about assaulting women is triggering and absolutely terrifying.”
Back to the present. I can’t talk about this shit without getting angry at the 53% of white women who voted for Trump in 2016. I fumed when I thought about how many of the women in pink “pussy” hats at Women’s Marches across the country probably voted for Trump, or the Green Party, which was, I promise, doing the the same fucking thing.
What did you think was going to happen if this man had the power of the US Executive Branch at his disposal? For folks who voted third party, or opted not to vote at all, was it worth it? Hillary Clinton was not a dream candidate for many people, me included. But I’d much rather be protesting a Clinton administration than Donald *I’ve enabled and empowered white supremacists* Trump and Mike *I’m obsessed with hurting gay people* Pence.
This man told us who he was before November 8 2016, and has walked the walk for the past four years. A brief overview of what this administration has done thus far when it comes to reproductive rights:
- Planned Parenthood was shut out from Title X funds due to the domestic Gag Rule, slashing the program’s recipients’ capacity by half.
- Trump made Betsy DeVos Education Secretary, and she’s having a hell of a time undermining Title IX and more.
- The Trump administration has separated more than 2,700 immigrant children from their parents.
- Women are being sterilized without their consent at ICE facilities. This is LITERALLY Nazi shit.
- ICE admitted that nearly 30 women have miscarried while in their custody in the past couple years. That is what they admit to.
- Trump ran in 2016 on the promise to deliver SCOTUS judges that would overturn Roe V. Wade. You need to know that when it comes to abortion access, Roe is the fucking basement, not the ceiling.
- January 2017- Trump nominates Neil Gorsuch. He’s sided with Hobby Lobby and thinks employers should be exempt from including birth control in their insurance coverage. He’s also written that there is ‘no constitutional basis’ for putting a mother’s life ahead of the child’s.
- September 2018- Trump nominates Brett Kavanaugh: actual rapist, and a giant baby who loves beer. Brett hates the Affordable Care Act, Roe V. Wade, and loves interfering in women’s reproductive decision making. Did I mention the rapist part?
- October 2020. Before Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s body is put to rest, Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett. Girl power, right? No. She believes Roe (the basement, remember?) was decided incorrectly. In 2019, she disparaged the trauma of survivors by suggesting that taking sexual assault seriously is evidence of sex discrimination against men in schools. She’s against the birth control benefit in the ACA, and was in favor of limiting birth control options at Notre Dame, where she was a professor. bell hooks said “patriarchy has no gender,” and this woman is an agent of misogyny.
What is at stake when it comes to reproductive rights in the 2020 General Election? Everything. Vote accordingly.