Republican Senator Jeff Flake, like so many other Republican senators, voted in favour of Trump’s global gag order that bans US-funded groups around the world from discussing abortion.
And recently, Flake met with his constituents in Mesa, Arizona, to defend his stance on women’s reproductive rights, abortion and contraception.
Flake intended to stand up and explain why he wanted to block federal funding for clinics that perform abortions – and he presumably expected to bring his constituents around to his point of view (albeit the same point of view that will, of course, further reduce access to women's healthcare, contraceptives and family planning – particularly low-income women and young people without parents).
What Flake didn’t expect, however, was to have his argument absolutely and expertly shut down by a fiercely eloquent 16-year-old woman.
Standing up in the town hall meeting last Friday (14 April), the teenager announced: “My name is Deja Foxx, and I’m a 16-year-old from Tucson. And I just want to state some facts.”
Introductions complete, Foxx continued: “I’m a young woman and you’re a middle-aged man.
“I’m a person of colour and you’re white.
“I come from a background of poverty, and I didn't always have parents to guide me through life.
“You come from privilege.”
Staring down Senator Flake, Foxx finished by saying: “So I'm wondering, as a Planned Parenthood patient – and someone who relies on Title X, who you are clearly not – why is it your right to take away my right to choose Planned Parenthood, and to choose no-co-pay birth control, to access that?
“So if you can explain that to me, I would appreciate it.”
Flake, speaking over the crowd’s jeers, responded: “What I want is to make sure that everyone can realise the American dream that all of us have been successful in. So that's what I'm trying to do, and that's why I support the policies that I support.”
Foxx fired back: “If the American dream is helping me to be successful and to reach for higher education, and if Planned Parenthood is doing that as well, why would you deny me the American dream?”
Title X funding was established in the 1970s, and is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning, contraception, STI/STD testing, cancer screenings, and other preventative health services.
Flake recently signed a measure, titled House Joint Resolution 43, which allows states to withhold Title X funding from Planned Parenthood and other health care centres that provide abortions – despite the fact that the funding isn’t used for terminations anyway.
This is expected to result in the closure of many health care centres.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 21.6 million women experience unsafe abortions each and every year.
These procedures are usually carried out in bleak and unsanitary conditions, which means that each year hundreds upon thousands of women are hospitalised due to post-procedure complications. Across the world, it is thought that at least 47,000 women die each year due to complications from unsafe terminations.
The statistics are overwhelming and clearly outline what we all already know to be true: rendering abortions illegal does not stop women seeking terminations. Instead, it simply causes them to seek them elsewhere – and puts their lives at risk.
“Women's health and rights are now one of the first casualties of the Trump administration,” said Serra Sippel, president of the Centre for Health and Gender Equity in Washington, when asked to comment on Trump’s anti-abortion ruling.
“The global gag rule has been associated with an increase in unsafe abortions and we expect that Trump’s global gag rule will cost women their lives.”