Melania Trump Tours Hospitals Abroad as Donald Tries to Stop People Visiting Them at Home

Melania Trump has remained virtually silent on her campaign promise to tackle cyberbullying as the first lady of the United States, though she’s seemed to take on another noble cause since moving into the White House: serving as a representative of the nation during a series of visits to overseas children’s hospitals and world-renowned medical facilities.

The first lady, who is fluent in five languages including French, on Thursday took a tour of the Necker-Enfants Malades Hospital in Paris, speaking with numerous children and complimenting some on their mastery of the English language. She previously spent time at the Vatican’s children hospital and facilities in Israel and Brussels, as well as another children’s hospital in New York City.

Related: How Melania Trump’s first 100 days compare to Michelle Obama's

The optics of a first lady visiting sick children around the world—speaking their native languages, drawing butterflies and wishing for their full recoveries—are an asset to an embattled Trump administration, and reflect her genuine interest in children’s futures. But they also represent a stark contrast to her husband’s advocacy of a Republican health care plan that would force millions of Americans to avoid hospital visits altogether.

The current version of the GOP’s bid to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare initiative, the Affordable Care Act, would see nearly 22 million people kicked off their health insurance plans by 2026—with 15 million of those removals occurring almost immediately next year if passed. Despite many Republican politicians and right-wing news outlets stating otherwise, studies indicate the GOP effort would correlate to an increase in deaths across America.

"Several quasi experimental studies using population-level data and longer follow-up offer more precise estimates of coverage’s effect on mortality," wrote the New England Journal of Medicine in a report compiling research on the connection between lack of health insurance and death rates. "One study compared three states implementing large Medicaid expansions in the early 2000s to neighboring states that didn’t expand Medicaid, finding a significant 6 percent decrease in mortality over five years of follow-up."

The hospital visits Trump has taken as first lady could be reflected in her approval ratings, currently higher than Hillary Clinton’s at this time during her tenure as first lady—and in Donald Trump's, for that matter. Extraordinary moments from her excursions have made international headlines as she’s traveled from one country to the next, including a young boy in Belgium finally hearing he’d receive a heart transplant just hours after meeting the first lady.

"Upon landing in Belgium, I learned a young boy and his family who had been waiting for a heart transplant was informed that the hospital has found a donor," Melania Trump said in a statement that day. "I read a book and held hands with this special little one just a few hours ago, and now my own heart is filled with joy over this news.”

When visiting Rome and meeting with the Pope, she also learned of the work the Vatican does with sick children. All of the children Melania Trump met with there in May receive care in the famous institution entirely free of charge.

After each visit, the first lady typically expresses her best wishes for the patients, whether it be through social media or her communications director, Stephanie Grisham.

But there are sick children in the U.S. as well, some of whose fates will be affected by Trump’s push to replace the Affordable Care Act with GOP legislation he himself has described as "mean." The first lady has refrained from expressing her political views since the campaign, though, much like first daughter Ivanka Trump, she's told reporters she shares her viewpoints with the president when she feels it’s required.

"Nobody knows and nobody will ever know" about her politics, Melania Trump said in a 2016 GQ interview, "because that’s between me and my husband."

It’s unclear whether Melania Trump is planning to broaden her hospital visits into a signature of her time as first lady, or even whether she’ll continue to make them a consistent part of the Trump presidency’s international visits. But if she cares as much about the well-being of children as she seems to, it appears obvious she would work to affect the actions of the president.

Whether he takes note is another question.

Join the Discussion