President Trump often talks about how much he “respects” women. He also often takes concrete steps that endanger women’s health.
—Trump made it easier for companies that violate the Family and Medical Leave Act to receive federal contracts. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year to care for a newborn, a newly adopted or newly placed foster child or a seriously ill family member; to recover from their own serious health conditions, including pregnancy; or to address military families’ unique care needs. Employers are prohibited from denying workers their rights under the FMLA or retaliating against employees for filing a charge under the law. In 2014, President Obama signed an Executive Order (EO) requiring companies competing for federal contracts to disclose whether they violated the FMLA and other labor laws. The EO also prohibited employers from mandating that their employees arbitrate civil rights and sexual harassment or sexual assault claims. Last March, after Congress acted to rescind the EO, President Trump revoked it, potentially causing harm to millions of workers and their families.
SIDEBAR: In 2017 alone, 586 complaints were filed with the Department of Labor (DOL) where the agency found that a company violated workers’ rights under the FMLA. The theory behind the 2014 EO was simple: Not only should it be illegal for these companies to deny working families their rights, but the federal government should also ensure new contracts are not awarded to companies that previously violated the FMLA or other important workplace or civil rights laws. By rescinding the EO, Trump stopped requiring all companies to make such disclosures when bidding on federal contracts, meaning that billions of federal dollars can once again be awarded to companies that illegally deny workers their rights.
—He’s allowing insurance companies to discriminate against women based on “pre-existing conditions” like having received medical treatment for domestic violence or sexual assault. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions. However, in January, the state of Idaho announced it would flout this critical ACA protection and allow insurance companies to deny benefits for preexisting conditions if an individual went uninsured for 63 days prior to getting insurance. Among the “preexisting conditions” for which an individual can be denied coverage: receiving medical treatment for domestic violence or sexual assault. Idaho will also allow insurance companies to refuse to cover essential health benefits and can even exclude maternity care from its plans. At least one Idaho insurer has said it plans to offer non-ACA compliant plans starting in April.
SIDEBAR: Experts agree that Idaho’s plan clearly violates the ACA, and the ACA requires HHS to step in and enforce the law where a state does not. Under the law, Trump can — and indeed must — stop Idaho insurers from selling plans that illegally discriminate against women, but so far, he’s refused to lift a finger.
—He illegally terminated Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program grants, which fund programs proven to reduce teen pregnancy. Since its creation in 2010, the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program has contributed to a dramatic decline in unintended teen pregnancies. Despite the program’s success, President Trump illegally terminated the program, stripping funding from all 81 grantees across the country. The grantees were given no explanation for the termination, but the decision was made shortly after abstinence-only education advocate Valerie Huber was appointed to a key HHS post. Prior to entering the Administration, Ms. Huber ran abstinence-only programs that researchers at Case Western Reserve University found had provided “false and misleading information,” perpetuated “destructive, inaccurate gender stereotypes,” and presented “religious convictions as scientific fact.” One curriculum said that teenagers who have sex before marriage should “be prepared to die.”
SIDEBAR: Democracy Forward sued the Trump Administration to reinstate the program on behalf of King County (Washington) and Healthy Teen Network. The suits allege that the termination of the program without cause violates HHS’s own regulations and the Administrative Procedure Act. In addition to the suits filed by Democracy Forward in Washington and Maryland, Public Citizen Litigation Group and Planned Parenthood have filed suit on behalf of other grantees harmed by the Administration’s unlawful actions.
—And he even halted an effort to reduce domestic abuse, sexual assault, and other workplace violence in the healthcare industry. In 2016, DOL began crafting a rule to prevent workplace violence against nurses, doctors, and other health workers. Shortly after Trump took office, DOL retreated. The agency removed the rule from its annual regulatory plan, signaling it does not intend to take any action within the next year.
SIDEBAR: Incredibly, while halting the rule, DOL admitted in May that “there is growing recognition that workers in healthcare occupations face unique risks and challenges.” That’s an understatement. According to DOL’s own data, in 2013 there were four times as many serious violent workplace injuries in the healthcare industry than in all other industries combined.