Reproductive Coercion Is the Trump Administration’s Latest Assault on Women’s Rights

For those who missed President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on January 30, the 80-minute speech was teeming with patriotism and heavily embraced a military state. But it’s one of the GOP’s favorite moments — the president’s praise of a police officer and  his wife for their recent adoption — that gives us an uncomfortable understanding of one of the White House’s most dangerous views: Women and girls of marginalized communities exist to provide babies for the rest of society.

The story of Ryan Holets, an Albuquerque, New Mexico, police officer, was supposed to be a heart-warming tale of taking on burden and sacrifice at God’s command in order to help a someone who is suffering. Instead, it comes across as a likely use of authority and force in a case of reproductive coercion. According to the public story, Holets discovered a pregnant woman addicted to drugs who was about to inject herself with heroin. Rather than arrest her and send her to prison, he agreed to adopt her baby once it was born.

“When Ryan told her she was going to harm her unborn child, she began to weep. She told him she didn’t know where to turn, but badly wanted a safe home for her baby,” President Trump said. “In that moment, Ryan said he felt God speak to him: ‘You will do it — because you can.’ He heard those words. He went home to tell his wife Rebecca. In an instant, she agreed to adopt. The Holets named their new daughter Hope.”

There are so very many questions about this story –  the most important being, why were the only choices putting the pregnant in jail and adopting her baby?

There’s no reason why she couldn’t give birth and keep her child, whether in jail and eventually released or in a rehabilitation center. Yet when presented with those two singular options — as Holet makes it clear was an immediate and on-the-spot decision — she was literally forced to agree to give up her rights to her child in order to avoid a prison sentence.

Forcing marginalized pregnant people to give birth to children who will then be handed over to other families isn’t an isolated occurrence under the Trump administration, either, but a long discussed, formulated plan.

According to new documents released under a FOIA request, we’ve learned more details about the Office of Refugee Resettlement and director Scott Lloyd. The department has been under fire in recent months due to its ongoing refusal to allow unaccompanied pregnant minors a release from their government-sponsored settlement centers in order to obtain abortions — despite judicial approval and the patients’ ability to pay without any outside funding. And now it’s come to light that ORR didn’t just try to block these abortions; in one case, program officers even discussed “reversing” the abortion that one teen had already began.

Based on deposition obtained by VICE, the agency discussed a medically unproven protocol that would allegedly “reverse” a medication abortion if the embryo still showed a heartbeat after the initial medication had been ingested.

“But in March 2017, the Trump administration delayed allowing an undocumented, pregnant teen to take the second pill for several hours in order to determine the ‘health status’ of her ‘unborn child,’ according to the March 6 memo,” Carter Sherman reports. “According to the memo, an examination of the teen at a local hospital found a fetal heartbeat more than 24 hours after the teen took the first pill in the medication abortion.”

“Reversal” — as abortion opponents call it, is an ongoing progesterone regime given to the pregnant person if the initial medication does not actually stop the pregnancy from progressing. It’s currently used experimentally on those who take the initial medication but not the later medication meant to expel the embryo from the body in a miscarriage-like process. At this point, the technique has not proven to be any more effective than just not taking the later medication at all, and there are no studies about the long-term impact on pregnant person or child.

Simply put, this pregnant girl was taken to a hospital, given a vaginal ultrasound, forced to delay her medication and nearly medically experimented on by the Trump administration — all because she is undocumented.

And unless the teen in question consented to all of the actions of the ORR, that’s a major violation of personal rights.

Had they not eventually provided the rest of the medication protocol, and she eventually gave birth, what would have happened to that child? Would they have given it to her to raise? Would she be told she could stay in the country as a citizen if she gave it up to a “good” couple for adoption? Would a resettlement agent say God told them to take in this baby? And would that be touted as the next “feel good story” of the State of the Union 2019?

That very well could have been the case. If we’ve learned nothing else in the last year, it’s that the Trump administration’s dream is to force births and then coerce “bad mothers”  to give those children to “good” parents to raise.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

57 comments

Veronica D
Veronica D6 days ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica D
Veronica D6 days ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica D
Veronica D6 days ago

Thank you so very much.

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Joan E
Joan E6 days ago

We need a drastic change in the government so we no longer have to survive in the Land of the Hateful and the Home of the Fearful.

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pam w
pam w7 days ago

Cathy B. lives in a happy little conservative bubble....where contraceptives never fail, men never lie and women never have a lapse in judgment. Because I work at Planned Parenthood, I know that all three of these statements are false. Perhaps Cathy believes that a woman should be punished with a lifetime of unwanted motherhood because one of these things happened?

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Dot A
Dot A7 days ago

Do not judge harshly unless you wish to be also judged with the same degree of harshness. I iterate this concept to those who judge women with the condemnation of a hateful god, a mind of limited understanding, and a heart that cannot feel the emotions that life brings with all the complexities of difficulties, abuses, and human injustices. Women are the gender which is the bearer of life's stream of struggle of survival, and if she decides that a life is not going to fair well in the world for her own personal insights, there isn't a male who should control her body over her own say. If a man and woman conceive a child and the man wants the baby even though she does not, it is between the two people to find the best solution. If the man is good and convinces her to bear the child, perhaps this baby is truly welcome into the world and the love of the father will be child's salvation in a cruel world. Each conception is unique, as is every mother, and father. Have an open mind, and use an open heart for every situation.

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Karen H
Karen H8 days ago

Cathy B, a woman having an abortion is not "killing her offspring for her own convenience and peace of mind." Unless you've been in the position some of these women are (and have been) in, you don't know why they opt for abortion. Don't judge unless you've walked a mile in their shoes.

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Clare O
Clare O8 days ago

I take issue with the commenter below who says heroin is not a toxin. Babies being gestated by drug addicts are usually born early or stillborn or die shortly after birth. The unfortunate woman is certainly not taking good care of herself, getting enough nutrients and healthy food, as all her time, money and mental efforts are going to get the illegal (or legal but in great quantity) drugs she buys. You think a heroin addict is worried about cigarette smoke or alcohol harming her baby? She is very likely to have Hepatitis and HIV just from injections. Those are passed to the baby in her bloodstream. She is also likely to get exposed ulcers where she injects and those get infected and send blood poisoning and other toxins through her system. It is not clean or desirable for women to have babies in this state of addiction. And later, who minds the baby when she is passed out from a shot of heroin? Her pusher?

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Clare O
Clare O8 days ago

Very strange, like the Handmaid's Tale.

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Janet B
Janet B9 days ago

Thanks

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