The Public Health Implications of a Trump Presidency
Originally posted at Medical Feminism on 12 February 2017.
This past presidential election spurred numerous unprecedented changes throughout communities in the United States. Donald Trump, during his bid for the presidency, managed to directly threaten the safety of several sects of the electorate: from suggesting a national registry of Muslim Americans to promising to disband the Affordable Care Act — leaving millions of Americans uninsured. These and other actions made by Trump before and during his presidency impact the health of our country’s population in a variety of ways.
Donald Trump’s particularly brusque brand of rhetoric left many citizens feeling threatened. And even groups who were less directly targeted by his words are still reeling from the far-reaching impacts of his demagoguery. Despite the lack of an explicit stance on LGBTQ+ rights, calls to suicide prevention hotlines by these individuals surged dramatically post-election. According to a CNN article, the normal call volume for the Trevor Project Lifeline — a phone hotline designed to assist LGBTQ+ youth in crisis — doubled in the days following the election. Additionally, the Trans Lifeline saw upwards of 500 calls a day, when the original, pre-election call volume was around 50 per day.
The anxiety and suicidality that befell so many members of the population were said to be centered around the potential repeal of the ACA (“Obama Care”). Without the act in place, insurers could choose to deny trans people coverage on the basis of their identity, which means trans individuals could lose their access to hormone therapy, sex-reassignment surgery, and other trans-affirming healthcare.
Trans individuals, even while safe from attacks on their health care access, are already much more likely to experience suicidality. According to a survey conducted by the Williams Institute of UCLA Law School and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 4.6 percent of the overall U.S. population has self-reported a suicide attempt, with that number climbing to between 10 and 20 percent for lesbian, gay or bisexual respondents. By comparison, 41 percent of trans or gender non-conforming people surveyed have attempted suicide.
Fast-forward to the present day. While the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a Federal District Court decision to temporarily block the Trump administration from carrying out its executive order on immigration, Trump’s tough stance on immigration is still making waves through increased deportation efforts across the country. The Huffington Post reports that Trump’s executive order challenging sanctuary jurisdictions also classifies all undocumented immigrants as deportation priorities —not just undocumented immigrants with criminal records.
This has resulted in rising numbers of deportations since the order was issued on January 25th. The Chicago Tribune reports sweeping immigrant deportation raids in at least six states.
As families are torn apart by deportations, the mental health of our citizens is placed in jeopardy. One NPR interview of a representative of the child advocacy group, First Focus, reports that deportation of a parent can lead to children experiencing “inability to sleep at night, a lot of anxiousness, behavioral problems, low academic performance.” These effects can be magnified when children witness their own parents’ arrest.
A study by the Migration Policy Institute and the Urban Institute found that significant and long-lasting harm can occur at emotional, economic, developmental, and academic levels for children whose parents have been deported. Furthermore, when one parent is deported the health of the remaining parent suffers, sometimes even shortening the remaining spouse’s lifespan — according to The Hill.
The direct consequences of Trump’s presidency on the emotional mental distress of U.S. citizens extend far beyond the aforementioned issues. Anxiety levels of concerned citizens are certainly increasing due to the impending disasters of climate change, mounting international unease due to faltering foreign relations, and similar instances of politically-based stress.
Other potential public health dangers include the anticipated decrease in availability of family planning services, birth control, and comprehensive sex education in schools. NY Magazine reports the methods through which our current Republican-led House and Senate could redefine preventative care to exclude birth control, causing insurance companies currently mandated to provide birth control without cost to no longer cover the cost of pregnancy prevention methods, including IUDS (long-term, intrauterine birth control).
Though it may seem useless to speculate, these policy decisions have far-reaching impacts when it comes to public health. Fewer birth control and family planning options can lead to spikes in unwanted pregnancies, higher birth rates, and more families struggling to care for large numbers of children.
It’s imperative that we remain vigilant in the face of not only apparent assaults on our country’s health — like the repeal of the Affordable Care Act — but also infringements on our sense of safety, security, and mental wellbeing. The political is personal; whoever sits in the Oval Office has an impact on our health as a nation and as individuals.