Post-Roe Life-Affirming Help
by Rachel MacNair
Now that we can refer to the Roe era in the past tense, we have some different considerations for building a Culture of Life (and a Culture of Peace, which I see as the same thing).
Abortions Going Down
A commonly expressed fear in the media is that abortions can only be entirely prevented by draconian surveillance methods. I point out an analogy – murder of adults is a major felony with drastic penalties, and most citizens are satisfied that the penalties should be severe. The crime is that serious. But to really stop our huge homicide rate might take some draconian police state measures that we also don’t find tolerable. There are better ways to prevent homicides.
We can expect abortions to go down in the states that ban or severely restrict abortions for several reasons:
- The assembly lines will shut down within those states.
- The institutions promoting abortion will be somewhat weakened.
- Women who were being pressured, or who felt ambivalent, or who only needed one obstacle to decide they didn’t want it after all, will be out of the abortion loop. That’s a major portion.
- People may regard abortion has having more stigma and therefore no longer consider it.
- Couples will take greater care to avoid getting pregnant since undoing the pregnancy takes so much more effort.
Nevertheless, there will still be plenty of women who retain the Roe-era attitudes on abortion and will access abortion elsewhere.
Women Going to Other States
In those states that ban or severely restrict abortion, there will obviously be women who go to the states that have no such restrictions to get them. Several companies are offering to make include travel expenses as an employee benefit. Abortion providers in states where abortion remains legal are thinking of putting mobile clinics across the border from states where it’s banned. Sneaking abortion pills in will be hard to stop – the U.S. already has a bad track record with trying to stop illegal drugs, despite excessive surveillance.
This is going to be a reality for a long time. Just as the legal end of slavery in the U.S. brought responses of imposed sharecropping and arresting people for loitering (that is, being unemployed) and mass incarceration including chain gangs, the hearts and minds that haven’t been changed will find ways to keep abortion going in the places where it’s illegal.
Therefore, I see three categories of needed steps beyond legal bans:
- Education, including these topics: fetal development (no sexuality education is comprehensive without this); the many harms of abortion; life skills education that teaches both about preventing unwanted pregnancy and dealing with pregnancy if it comes; and education about the value of nonviolence across the board.
- Get women out of Planned Parenthood’s orbit for any kind of health care. PP has plenty of centers in most of the states that will restrict abortion, and they’ll be focal points for giving women advice on how to access abortion elsewhere, and pushing it on them.
- Provide needed services for pregnant women, new mothers, and their families.
Of course, all three points are ones we’ve been acting on and advocating all along. They apply every bit as much to those states where abortion will remain government-promoted, along with those states that are iffy. (The New York Times gives a run-down of which states are which.)
But the point about providing those life-affirming services comes up in the minds of many as being all the more a governmental responsibility when abortions are banned, and is commonly recognized by pro-lifers as well (for example, see this article in National Review or this in The Atlantic – and there are many more).
Lynn Fitch is the attorney general for Mississippi.
Here I’ll focus on proposals by Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, and Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah. I’ve discussed my own ideas for post-Roe legislation, but here I look at things that have been planned by some people in legislative power.
Paid Parental Leave
The New Parents Act would give parents options on paid parental leave by allowing them to tap their social security accounts, giving them flexibility and allowing a federal program without new taxes or entitlements – something especially appealing to Republicans. We have a page on our Peace and Life Referendums site devoted to why paid parental leave is important, including a speech by Henry Hyde when Congress was passing unpaid family and medical leave.
As for the payment mechanism, my initial reaction is that it’s clever and workable – but neither I nor CLN take a position on how things are funded as long as the method isn’t poverty-inducing.
Of course, we advocate for stopping the program of modernizing nuclear weapons and using that money to fund life-affirming services. We’d also be satisfied with switching money from other harmful military programs. But Republican senators don’t think that way just yet, and Democratic senators don’t either.
Expand the Child Tax Credit
This credit is refundable, meaning you can get money out of it even if you don’t owe taxes. It can be given monthly. This proved to be an excellent poverty-reducing technique when done recently, but it expired, and therefore needs to be re-instituted.
The problem: Republicans want to fund this by reducing or eliminating the federal income tax deduction for State and Local Taxes (SALT). In blue states like New York and California, state taxes are quite high. Republicans have it in for this deduction because they think it encourages those states to have overly high taxes. They think Democrats are protecting the rich people of their own constituency. Democrats want to protect the SALT deduction because it is, after all, a benefit to the rich of their own constituency. There’s also a logic to the idea that you shouldn’t have to pay taxes on income you don’t have any more, because you already paid it in state or local taxes.
Previous bills have been sunk over this argument.
It wouldn’t occur to us at CLN to have an opinion on the SALT deduction issue, of course, but that’s why Democrats who would otherwise favor the policy are likely to object to the payment mechanism.
Expand Child Support Enforcement requirements
Rubio discusses the poverty-reducing impact of this for single mothers, but there’s another point: one study that compares places with high enforcement to those without shows it reduced the abortion rate, but not the ratio. The rate is the number of abortions per 1,000 women of child-bearing age, and the ratio is the portion of actual pregnancies aborted. So the rate can go down by there being fewer pregnancies, and that’s apparently what’s at work here. It’s not that women decide they can handle the pregnancy due to child support enforcement – they may not trust it that much – but rather that men are way more cautious about actions that may saddle them with an 18-year financial commitment.
Provide additional funding, with reforms, to the WIC program.
Rubio’s proposed reforms would make the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program more generous, and include informing recipients about child support enforcement.
Expanding support for pregnant college students:
The Pregnant Students Rights Act would expand existing rights.
Other provisions proposed by Rubio (in his own words):
Expand tax relief for adoptive parents.
Expand access to social services by lowering barriers to faith-based organizations’ participation.
Establish a grant program to fund integrated mentoring services for low-income mothers.
Create a clearinghouse of resources for pregnant women.
Expanding support for pro-life crisis pregnancy centers.
We don’t know which of these proposed measures will pass, but several things on the list are good ones.
One major area isn’t addressed: health care access. That will be much more sticky given the uproar on Obamacare, Medicaid expansion, etc. Raising the minimum wage would be another proposal, outside the realm of ones Republicans would like. Housing, child care, prevention of domestic abuse – there are many other areas that should be covered. Not all are federal matters; they can also be covered under state legislation.
For another example of thinking along these lines that I hope is a sign of a major trend, The National Review has a June 28 article (the same day this is posted) called A Marshall Plan for the Pro-Life Cause. It also makes a list of legislative proposals – and they do include health care proposals. The original Marshall Plan was a massive nonviolent response in the aftermath of World War II in Europe, caring for people’s needs with the hope this would help prevent another war. Being someone who sees connections between war and widespread abortion, I see the analogy as quite apt.
While the Consistent Life Network doesn’t take positions on particulars, we strongly take a position on the principle: in our society as a whole, we’re a community, we’re all responsible for the babies that pop up in our midst, and life-affirming services are crucial.