On Monday, Trump signed what many journalists called an “anti-abortion executive order,” though the presidential action that Trump implemented is a presidential memorandum and has been essentially and habitually reversed each time a president from the opposing party takes over the Oval Office since Ronald Reagan, as Inquisitr’s Liz Kelley explained on Tuesday. See, Trump’s Presidential Memorandum Regarding the Mexico City Policy reinstated the Presidential Memorandum of January 22, 2001, which was put in place by President George W. Bush, by revoking the Presidential Memorandum of January 23, 2009, which was issued by President Obama. Nevertheless, Monday evening, social media was buzzing over the news that Trump signed what has been coined an “anti-abortion executive order.”
What Trump signed was not officially an executive order though. Granted, it could be thought of as an order issued by the executive office. Maybe I’m splitting hairs. Still, the American Presidency Project, among numerous other sources, reports that memoranda are a form of presidential action that were once known as “letters” and are categorically different from executive orders. Besides executive orders, the types of presidential actions that a president can issue are categorized as either a presidential determination, a presidential notice, or a presidential memorandum. Considering that both an executive order and a presidential memorandum are legally binding policies issued without the approval of Congress, liberals might ask, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”
Pew Research explained that executive orders are required to be filed in the Federal Register and to be numbered, but memoranda are not. Despite this liberty, President Trump did specify that the Presidential Memorandum Regarding the Mexico City Policy was to be published in the Federal Register. Perhaps the most definitive difference between an executive order and a presidential memorandum though is that an executive order must find support in the Constitution, making it a more lofty type of presidential action. USA Today outlines other differences between the two types of presidential actions, and so does Kids.gov. To be fair though, USA Today reports that even Trump used the wrong label for what he signed Monday, and even Vice President Pence called the presidential action an “EO.”
Proud to stand w/ President Trump signing EOs: withdrawing US from TPP, prohibiting int'l abortion funding & freezing hiring except military pic.twitter.com/PaHV2XGoAv
— Vice President Pence (@VP) January 23, 2017
Journalists with affiliations from Huffington Post to CNN to BBC and a multitude of other media platforms declared Monday’s presidential memorandum an executive order and missed the opportunity to correct Trump by telling him and their readers that what he signed was a presidential memorandum.
— The Hill (@thehill) January 23, 2017
— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) January 23, 2017
One problem with the media up-selling the memorandum as an executive order is that people often view executive orders negatively. Kenneth S. Lowande explained in an article published in Presidential Studies Quarterly that an “executive order immediately evokes potentially damaging questions of ‘imperial overreach.'” In fact, President Obama’s representatives bragged at how few he signed, according to Independent Journal Review. Though President Obama signed a slew of memoranda, people praised him for his restraint in signing executive orders.
Look, journalists are being held under a microscope right now by Republicans, Progressives, and Independents. President Trump has taken every opportunity to accuse the media of lying about him or twisting the truth. Conservatives who noticed are saying things like, “Leave it to the liberal media to exaggerate and lie about President Trump again.”
Worse yet, to some people, it looks as though journalists might be trying to prevent people from actually reading the memorandum itself. See, when interested Americans hear of a new executive order, they often head over to the White House’s website and look them up. Except, if you go to the executive orders link, nothing would be found about a new “anti-abortion law.” Why? Because it’s categorized under the link for presidential memoranda of course!
Here’s the thing. Trump’s memorandum goes further than earlier versions written by previous Republican presidents. In the past, NGOs had to disavow any involvement with abortion or discussion of abortion to get U.S. money, but Trump’s memorandum expands that same gag rule to all non-government global health funding.
“I direct the Secretary of State, in coordination with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, to the extent allowable by law, to implement a plan to extend the requirements of the reinstated Memorandum to global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies,” President Trump wrote. “I further direct the Secretary of State to take all necessary actions, to the extent permitted by law, to ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars do not fund organizations or programs that support or participate in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”
Original projections stated that $600 million in U.S. foreign aid would be affected. Slate reported that with the new additional verbiage added by Trump, around $9.5 billion in U.S. foreign aid will be affected. Is this a good thing or a bad thing to the average American? Who really knows? On one hand. much of the nation wants to make sure that no woman has to resort to an unsafe abortion. On the other hand, much of the nation might be shocked that our own veterans can’t get the care they need, but the Federal government can hand out almost 10 billion dollars to fund healthcare around the globe. Incidentally though, as in-depth, thought provoking, and revealing as it was, the Slate article also failed to mention the term presidential memorandum.
Meanwhile, NPR also covered the $10 billion dollar expense, but also called the new policy what it is supposed to be called. While countless other media sources fail to even include the term presidential memorandum, NPR nailed it. NPR even specified that with the Mexico City Policy, a government-sponsored medical center could be still “eligible for U.S. funding even if it were to provide or ‘actively promote’ abortion” and that the policy only refers to nongovernmental groups that work overseas. Seriously, if the speculations made by The Hill are accurate, perhaps Trump might want to rethink any plans of privatizing the Corporation For Public Broadcasting, which reportedly partially funds NPR.
Look, it’s not just the Republicans that are watching the media’s every move. If the so-called “liberal media” wants to regain the respect of the Progressives and Independents that it lost when it seemingly threw the 2016 Democratic presidential nominating competition for Hillary Clinton, it’s going to have to make certain to portray the whole truth, even at the expense of depicting President Trump with less “imperial overreach.”
[Featured Image by Ron Sachs/Getty Images]