2020 President-elect Joe Biden plans to reverse some of the policies the Trump administration has enacted upon women’s rights over the last four years. During Biden’s campaign, he has vowed to address several gender-related social issues including women’s rights in healthcare and the workplace, including the pay gap, and domestic and sexual violence.
Over the four years of Donald Trump’s presidency, he has reversed policies created by previous administrations, some of which have disproportionately affected women. One of these policies further limited private abortion coverage by finalzing a rule that would make consumers of the Affordable Care Act pay out of pocket for abortions because it is a premium service. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also established in 2018 that insurers held the authority to choose whether or not their company would provide contraceptives due to religious reasons. While the Obama Administration also did not support abortions under the ACA, they were still covered under the ACA’s premium insurance policy. People were charged for abortion, but it was as little as one dollar depending on the marketplace. However, the Obama Administration did allow insurance agencies to restrict access to contraceptives based on religious reasons, and ACA contraceptives were covered without any copayment.
The Trump administration also weakened the Title IX civil rights law, which put students at greater risk of sexual harassment and assault. In May of 2020, the U.S. Department of Education finalized a rule that changes the way Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by allowing educational institutions to require more proof when investigating domestic and sexual assault cases.
Lastly, in 2017, the Trump Administration disbanded the White House Council on Women and Girls. Trump instead appointed his daughter and Advisor to the President, Ivanka Trump, to be in charge of women’s issues pertaining to the former group. The council had been established in 2009 by President Barack Obama in an Executive Order, with the aim to focus on issues of gender equality and served the government for eight years. This council ensured that each agency took into account the needs of women and girls when creating or reforming policy. With this council gone, it leaves a lack of diverse perspectives from being well represented in policies that affect them.
Following this pattern set by the Trump Administration, President-elect Biden claims that once in office he wants to fix issues involving women. One of these issues involved closing the economic security gap, “as women only hold 32 percent of the wealth men have, and women of color only have pennies of that wealth compared to each dollar a man makes.” According to Biden’s campaign website, he plans to “pursue an aggressive and comprehensive plan to further women’s economic and physical security and ensure that women can fully exercise their civil rights.” Additionally, Biden plans to expand access to healthcare to tackle health inequities, help women navigate work and families, end violence against women, and protect and empower women around the world.
In terms of demonstrating representation, Biden plans to make sure that women of color are well-represented in his administration. He appointed California Senator Kamala Harris, a woman of color, as his Vice President, and has promised to select an African-American woman to be a part of the Supreme Court. In March of 2020, Biden promised to “pick a woman to be vice-president” with the possibility of gaining the feminist vote in the 2020 election. He followed through with that statement when he announced Harris to be his Vice President, though some people feel as if he is tokenizing her as a Black woman in order to gain votes. Ultimately, Biden picking Harris to be his VP leaves the possibility of him developing a set agenda about what the Black community really needs at the moment.
Outside of his appointed positions, Biden wants to reinstate Executive Order 13583, which is a mandate that promotes diversity and inclusion of both race and gender in the federal workplace. It would be by law that federal workplaces “endeavor to achieve a work force from all segments of society.” The plan for Executive Order 13583 is to analyze their current workforce and measure the percentage of qualified applicants in order to eliminate any barriers that exist for them.
Biden also plans to re-establish the previously-mentioned White House Council on Women and Girls, which was created by Obama and Biden in order to “ensure that each of the agencies in which they’re charged takes into account the needs of women and girls in the policies they draft, the programs they create, [and] the legislation they support.” This council will be chaired by a senior member of the Executive Office of the President and will be in charge of leading and collaborating on government policies that impact women.
Biden has also detailed his plans for improving economic security for women. As of today, a White woman makes 81 cents to a White man’s dollar, and a woman of color makes 75 cents to a White man’s dollar. Biden intends to close the pay gap between men and women in the workplace, as he supports the Paycheck Fairness Act. This is a bill that ends loopholes from the Equal Pay Act of 1963, as it is designed to end pay discrimination against women.
In 2017, the Trump Administration attended to cease the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s collecting company data on gender and race, a practice started in the Obama Administration. This violated the law because it stopped the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s efforts in collecting pay data based on race and gender from large companies. In 2019, Tanya S. Chutkan, a U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia, ordered that President Trump and his Administration reinstate the Equal Employment Opportunity. Given Biden’s role as Vice President in Obama’s Administration, it is likelyBiden will uphold this Obama-Era policy.
In 2014, the Supreme Court let private insurance companies have the choice to deny contraceptive coverage because of religious reasons. Once Biden is in office, he promises to restore contraceptive access under The Affordable Care Act by restoring federal funding for Planned Parenthood, rescind the Mexico City Policy (also referred to as the global gag rule) that President Trump reinstated and expanded, and stop state laws from restricting Roe v. Wade laws. An example of this can be seen in the state of Louisiana, where they just passed an amendment called “Love Life,” which bans abortions as Louisiana’s constituion does not protect abortion rights.
In the past, Joe Biden has not always agreed on supporting abortion rights. In 1977, as a senator, he voted to support the Hyde Amendment, which banned federal funding to go towards abortions, with the exception of victims of rape and incest. This Amendment affects both low income women and women of color. In 1981, Biden voted to remove those exceptions. At the beginning of his campaign, Joe Biden still supported the amendment. However, he quickly changed stance on the amendment — possibly to gain the votes in the election. However, his current position as president elect continues to disapprove of the Hyde Amendment.
Biden plans on helping women navigate work and family life, especially through the pandemic. He believes that there are gaps in the work system that deeply affect working mothers and those who have to take care of disabled family members. According to his website, Biden will make child and community-based care more affordable and accessible, make housing more affordable, grant workers up to 12 weeks of paid leave and medical leave, and enforce fair and flexible work schedules.
Violence against women — both legally and physically — is one of, in Biden’s opinion, the biggest issues that he plans to tackle once he is in office. In 1990, he wrote the legislation Violence Against Women Act while he was in Senate, a bill that acknowledged both sexual and domestic violence as crimes, and gave federal resources to survivors. Though, his past in dealing with Title IX related issues has not always been as supportive.
In 1994, Law Professor Anita Hill testified against her former boss Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for sexual harassment. Biden and Orrin Hatch are the ones that oversaw the testimony, along with structuring it. Biden called no independent experts and forced Anita Hill to defend herself alone against the Senate panel, where she faced attacks on her character and trustworthiness. Since then, Biden has apologized to Anita, and expressed, “I wish I had been able to do more for Anita Hill.” He voted against Justice Thomas in the case.
Though, when he takes Presidential office, Biden plans to renew this federal law along with many other things, such as expanding safety nets to survivors, restoring Title IX guidelines for colleges, finding ways to support the diverse needs of survivors from different cultures, protecting immigrant women who are more susceptible to violence, increasing visas for domestic violence survivors, supporting women service members and veterans, confronting online harassment and stalking, ending rape kit blocking, and changing the stigma against sexual and domestic violence.
With Biden coming into office in 2021, many are reassured to know that he has clarified his plans for women’s rights, as these plans affect all women, such as the students attending Whittier College.
Featured image: Photo courtesy of REUTERS