(The title comes from this Radiohead song)
I’ve used the phrase “when they’re done with us, they’ll come for you” a few times in this blog: my theory, for which there is tons of evidence, is that trans people are often the canaries in the coal mines. The people that are hateful towards trans people are usually hateful to other groups, such as gay people, women, or ethnic minorities. The organisations that fund or promote anti-trans views are usually against LGBT rights and women’s reproductive freedom.
The organisation responsible for this week’s Trump anti-trans memo is the office of Health and Human Services, HHS for short. It’s a huge part of the US government: it controls the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Health, Medicare/Medicaid and much more.
And as Rolling Stone reports, it’s been slowly but surely populated with extremists.
It was a coup, then, when Trump installed pious orthopedic surgeon Tom Price as secretary, who, with the help of the office of Vice President Mike Pence, began stocking the department with an army of culture-war veterans plucked from the countryâ€™s most radical religious organizations â€” the archconservative Family Research Council, the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, Americans United for Life, and the National Abstinence Education Association among them. By the time Price was forced to step down over a spending scandal last September, HHS had already been transformed into what the Family Research Council called â€œa virtual promise-keeping factoryâ€ for Christian conservatives.
Some of these organisations will be familiar to trans people: The FRC in particular is driving the wedge strategy that attempts to build bridges with feminist women against transgender people in order to split the T from LGBT. If you’re in the UK and puzzled by the sheer volume of anti-trans coverage in recent months, follow the money. A lot of it comes from the US.
These organisations aren’t just anti-trans, or anti-gay. They’re anti-women.
As Shannon Royce, an alum of the Family Research Council and current head of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at HHS, told a gathering of evangelicals in January, Trumpâ€™s HHS â€œis absolutely a pro-life team, across the spectrum, and that is playing out in many ways.â€ The â€œteamâ€ has found ways to codify its agenda in corners as disparate as the annual budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where the words â€œfetusâ€ and â€œtransgenderâ€ were banned, to the Administration for Community Living, which eliminated questions about sexual orientation from a survey of seniors and people living with disabilities. Royce herself was particularly proud of wedging into HHSâ€™ strategic plan a sentence that redefines life as starting at the moment of conception..
Evangelicals have essentially bypassed the courts. By taking control of HHS, they can deny abortions to women without having to wait for Roe vs Wade to be taken down.
Rolling Stone describes the way things are working in ORR, the part of HHS that puts foreigners in camps and splits children from their parents.
Itâ€™s not unusual for girls to arrive at an ORR shelter already pregnant, many as a result of their journey. According to a 2010 Amnesty International estimate, six in 10 female migrants are sexually assaulted at some point during their crossing.
Scott Lloyd is the director of ORR and compares abortion to the Holocaust.
During the Obama administration, requests for abortion were only elevated to the directorâ€™s office if there was a question of funding. (Under the Hyde Amendment, the federal government can pay for abortions only in cases of rape, incest or if the life of the mother is at risk.)
…Before Lloyd was even sworn in as the head of the ORR, he ordered an accounting of all pregnant girls in the officeâ€™s custody. Internal e-mails show an ORR staffer had to cross-reference reports looking for indications of a possible pregnancy and call each shelter to verify the information before coming up with a tally of 38 girls in 18 shelters. After that,Â LloydÂ began receiving a spreadsheet on a weekly basis listing every pregnant underage girl, her location and number of weeks gestation.
As this crisis has been unfolding on his watch, Lloyd has been micromanaging pregnant minors â€” in his own words, a â€œtiny fractionâ€ of the population ORR serves. But he has not approved a single abortion. Not even for a young rape victim who threatened to kill herself if she was forced to remain pregnant. â€œIt will not undo or erase the memory of the violence that was committed against her, and it may further traumatize her,â€ Lloyd wrote in his official memo denying her the procedure, annotated with links to pro-life literature he said he found on the Internet.
If I were a woman in America right now, I’d be terrified.