The Trump administration is taking steps towards eliminating the White House Council on Women and Girls, according to a Politico report.
The Council has ceased operations while President Trump decides whether its work is necessary, and may shut down entirely.
The Council was created in 2009 by Barack Obama with the aim of communicating with women's advocacy groups and assessing how American women are impacted by policy. Upon signing an executive order to open the office, President Obama said, "Issues like equal pay, family leave, child care and others are not just women's issues, they are family issues and economic issues. Our progress in these areas is an important measure of whether we are truly fulfilling the promise of our democracy for all our people."
White House spokesperson Hope Hicks downplayed the possible shuttering of the Council on Thursday, saying, "We want the input of the various agencies to understand the assets they have so that we make this office additive, not redundant."
But women's advocates voiced concern about the Trump administration's lack of attention to the Council's goals for American women.
"It shows the priority [they] place on the issues surrounding women and girls," said Tina Tchen, the former director of the Council on Women and Girls.
The news comes a day after President Trump — who drew criticism throughout the 2016 election and since his inauguration for his mistreatment of women — dominated the corporate news cycle with derogatory tweets about "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski — and after two of the most visible women in his administration defended his remarks and attempted to reframe the incident as evidence that the news media is biased against the Trump White House.
"The president has been attacked mercilessly...by that ["Morning Joe"] program," said deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a press briefing Thursday. "And I think he's been very clear that, when attacked he’s going to hit back."
Though she denounced the media for criticizing the president, Sanders ignored a reporter's question about Trump's history of publicly questioning the legitimacy of Obama's birth certificate.
On Thursday, top advisor Kellyanne Conway told "Good Morning America" that the media's negative coverage of Trump is "really denying America's women rightful knowledge on what he's is doing for them on taxes, healthcare..." She pointed to news coverage of the FBI's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election as being a particular distraction.
Trump has endorsed a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would end mandatory coverage for birth control and prenatal care. He's also expressed support for the Senate healthcare bill, which Planned Parenthood called "beyond heartless" in light of the impact it would have on women. The White House has yet to release a tax plan, but a draft released in April offered few details on how a Trump tax overhaul would benefit women and families.
Conway and Sanders's defenses of Trump also came on the heels of a new Gallup poll which showed that less than a third of American women approve of the president.