From the Executive Director: What a Trump Presidency Means for Our Work


Karuna Jaggar headshotBy Karuna Jaggar, Executive Director

I won’t lie. There were tears shed in the Breast Cancer Action the morning after the 2016 election. My own, and those of the strong, smart, tireless team of women I work with.

Like many people working for social justice and women’s health, we feel fear and apprehension deep in our guts about what a Trump presidency means for our communities, and the larger world. More than one person has said she feels like our work has been set back decades by last night’s election of Donald Trump.

Each year around this time I write about system change and the long arc of Breast Cancer Action’s work to change the breast cancer movement and achieve health justice for women at risk of and living with breast cancer. I always remind myself and our community that meaningful change takes time, that there are steps forward and set-backs, and the undeniable necessity of this work. It feels harder today to say all of that. The pull of hopelessness is palpable. But it also feels even more necessary.

It’s hard to celebrate the wins we did see last night, like a ban on fracking in Monterey County, when President-elect Trump has said that he will “cancel” the Paris Climate Agreement within 100 days of taking office.

But it’s not just fracking and other forms of dangerous drilling at stake here. Donald Trump’s vision for this country is fundamentally opposed to the values that I and Breast Cancer Action hold dear: social justice, compassion, equality, resisting oppression, respecting women.

We are a breast cancer organization, but as feminists committed to social justice we are also acutely aware of all the ways our work intersects with the vital and vibrant movements for justice that are happening across this country. We are grateful for and inspired by the ongoing resistance to oppression and injustice we see happening even in the midst of this demoralizing election. #BlackLivesMatter, #NoDAPL, fair immigration reform, ending the school to prison pipeline, the fight for a $15 minimum wage—we want to see these movements win, not be steamrolled by a president who ran his campaign fueling racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and so much more that is antithetical to the world I want to live in.

When it comes to our work here at BCAction for women at risk of and living with breast cancer, here’s just a short list of what a Trump administration likely means for our work and our members:

  • Repeal or roll back of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare)—for cancer patients this could mean a return to denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions, lifetime payment caps, and inability to access healthcare
  • An even more pro-industry Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that weakens standards of safety and efficacy for new drugs and devices
  • Weaken and dismantle Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations—after initially threatening to eliminate the agency—and put a climate change skeptic named Myron Ebell at the helm
  • A toxic environment where women are reduced to breasts and anything less than mainstream standards of beauty are mocked and ridiculed

Real people will suffer the consequences of bad policies. And some communities will be more impacted than others. And this is why, even as we are in shock and grief, we are more committed than ever to our values and vision of the world we want to live in.

Breast cancer is political and breast cancer is a social justice issue. Without question, women’s health broadly is a social justice issue. And like other women’s health issues, the breast cancer epidemic impacts communities unequally and leads to unacceptable differences in who develops breast cancer and when it develops, who gets high quality and timely treatment, and who dies from breast cancer. These outcomes are directly connected to the racism and misogyny that surged in the polls yesterday.

But I know I’m not alone in wanting to live in a world where social justice is a reality; a world that honors women’s diverse voices and lived experiences; a world where people’s health and well-being come before corporate profits; a world based on honesty, fearlessness, and compassion.

It’s clear from the election results that our work will be much harder now—but even more urgent and we are that much more committed to creating a just and equitable world for all of us.

As the great ecologist and activist Sandra Steingraber has said: “We are all musicians in a great human orchestra, and it is now time to play the Save the World Symphony. You are not required to play a solo, but you are required to know what instrument you hold and play it as well as you can. You are required to find your place in the score. What we love we must protect. That’s what love means. From the right to know and the duty to inquire flows the obligation to act.”

We will keep playing our instruments as loudly as we can; thank you for playing yours.

This entry was posted in BCA News.

15 Responses to From the Executive Director: What a Trump Presidency Means for Our Work

  1. Iryna says:

    Fear Not! Clinton would be the worst at helping you out. I am unsubscribing

  2. Carol Harley says:

    Thank you for your work and your words. Yes.

  3. Susan Shoe says:

    Well, I truly thought this was an organization that cares about breast cancer & women who cannot afford to have protective screening or treatment if cancer is found. I thought you represented breast cancer research & commitment to putting a stop to this horrible disease.

    I did not realize that you were feminists who believe in a lot of mainstream efforts in which I am not interested or concerned. I do not agree with your assessment of Donald Trump & what his presidency will mean for the treatment of women. I guess only time will prove which one of us is correct.

    I do not believe in the way Obamacare was pushed through & made legal & agree that it needs to be abolished. I do not believe in granting people free healthcare, lodging, food or other types of handouts for those who are just as able to work for a living as I. I do believe in helping those who make an effort to support themselves & still cannot afford these necessities of life or preventions & treatments of diseases such as breast cancer.

    I do believe there needs to be changes, big changes in our healthcare of today. I do believe there are major changes that need to happen to start getting our country out of debt & that means there will be changes that will hurt each & every one of us in the short term, but will mean a better America in the end.

    I’m sorry, but I can no longer support this action group. Please take me off of your e-mail contact list. It seems we are not at all in agreement of the issues today.

    • Kathy Kolb says:

      The role of BCA indeed should include advocating for health care for women with breast cancer. As a Director of a PA grass roots breast cancer organization, I have sat with women who had no access to health insurance prior to the Afoordable Care Act. One woman got a second mortgage on her home and secured a $2500 per month policy. Another women whose husband was 10 years older than her, told me her 74 year old husband continued to work as a school janitor until she reached Medicare age so she would be able to get treatment. These are real stories about the reality of life for cancer patients (and MS patients, cardiac patients, etc) before Obamacare. I am a 2X bc cancer survivor myself and only have insurance due to the ACA. Thank you BCS for speaking out for us. Your post refers to the US getting out of debt. Take a good look at where the debt came from. Not the ACA.

  4. #acceptall says:

    As a bc organization you should know that posting political information needs to be correct. How do you know and this it is “clear” that your work will be harder? Very sad that you are encouraging the negativity for the first president that isn’t a plitician because you “think” he is doing wrong.

  5. jaclyn says:

    Thank you for this. Please keep us posted with action items. Ready to fight.

  6. Lori Luckas says:

    Ms. Jaggar:

    Please take your “political blog” to a more appropriate site. I was under the impression that we the survivors and fighters of Breast Cancer, no matter our political beliefs, are seeking one agenda: Finding A Cure!

    How about you give Mr. Trump time to take office before casting the first stone.

    Lori Luckas

  7. Kate Alexander says:

    BRAVO Karuna Jaggar, for writing this exceptional piece. Yes, a Trump presidency will make your work harder! All along I have known that breast cancer is both a political and a social issue. Over the past 22 years I have applauded your work: exposing the environmental causes of breast cancer, speaking up on useless and inhumane treatment, educating women on mammograms, not taking money from big pharma and companies which cause pollution and so many more breast cancer issues. Until the causes of cancer are addressed and dealt with, there will be no cure.
    At this moment in time the cancer establishment knows there is no cure. Research dollars are spent on new and different forms of treatment to manage cancer.
    I also applaud that you are a feminist organization!
    Trump has shown us all that he is a misogynist, and could care less about social, economic and political issues surroundin women with breast cancer. I doubt that health justice for women is on Trump’s agenda.

    • Andrew (Andy) Alcock says:

      What you say about Trump is true. However, Hillary Clinton was not the best alternative. She was largely responsible for the carnage in Libya and made huge profits out of the sale of armaments to the totally undemocratic and misogynist Saudi royals that represses Saudi women and supports the foreign jihadists that are trying to overthrow the secular government in Syria to make it a jihadist, Sharia law state.

      The best feminist candidate in the recent US presidential elections was Dr Jill Stein of the US Greens.

      She stood on a platform of peace, social justice, human rights and care for the environment. Dr Stein would have slashed the US military budget and poured much needed finances into a decent health system and human services for poorer Americans.

      Hillary Clinton might have sounded more sympathetic to women and struggling Americans, but she was an avid supporter of the US Military Industrial Complex.

      All of us need to support those politicians that will work for peace, social justice, equality, human rights, fair dealings between nations (as opposed to attacking them and stealing their resources etc) and combatting pollution that is leading to climate change and poisoning of our water, soil, air and food.

      • Kate Alexander says:

        How is the president-elect working out for you just now? Supporting ” those politicians that will work for peace, social justice, equality, human rights, fair dealings between nations (as opposed to attacking them and stealing their resources etc) and combatting pollution that is leading to climate change and poisoning of our water, soil, air and food.”

  8. Ana says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful words and for taking your work to heart. I will continue to support any organization that cares deeply about women’s health and the environment, such as Breast Cancer Action.

  9. Susan Jacobs says:

    In stand with you in the fight to bring compassionate, quality healthcare to all women who need it. It’s important work that des indeed intersect with other health, environmental, female and financial issues. It’s impossible to separate it from these things and a Trump presidency casts doubt on all of it. We do t know for sure what he will do, but of course it is your job to be proactive when it comes to saving lives. Keep up the fight!!

  10. Angela Squires says:

    I am disturbed that you wrote “…like many people working for social justice and women’s health..”
    Surely an organization called Breast Cancer Action would prioritize women’s health? I live in Canada so realize the extreme problems of your ridiculous health care system that costs so much more yet delivers far less than other Western countries. However I’d hope that your major focus is health rather than social justice. Please advise. Yes BC is political because it mostly occurs in women and there are always more breasts to play with so who gives a shit that some lose their breasts, are shockingly mutilated and die sometimes horrible deaths. Many women are just as breast obsessed as men in that they shove their cleavage in your face. Please keep to your mandate; expose the environmental degradation that causes BC and the cancer industry that feeds off the disease and has little real interest in prevention because there’s little profit in it.

    • Jane Johnson says:

      Do you not see the connection between a Trump presidency and environmental degradation? Check out who he wants to be the head of EPA, and consider how he will affect our air and water pollution, as well as use of carcinogenic chemicals in household goods. At the same time, keep an eye on Paul Ryan, who is ready to dismantle not only ACA but also Medicare and Medicaid, which will make getting treatment almost impossible for poor women.
      Presidents and their administrations have a huge impact on cancer and healthcare, and we can’t assume otherwise.

  11. Ann says:

    Just like the democrats, you have no idea what is really going on and your political post will cost you a great deal of support. You underestimate the intelligence of many women like myself ( I am a physician) who know Trump was the best option. Let’s get good conservatives back in the Supreme Court. And let’s STOP supporting you and your liberal agenda.

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