My Ideas for Post-Roe Legislation
by Rachel MacNair
Now that Roe’s overturn looks like a real possibility, I want to suggest some ideas for legislation. When the Biden administration started, I wrote My Ideas for 2021 Legislation, detailing what I would advise if I were asked, knowing I wouldn’t be asked. I still hold to ratifying the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to abolish the death penalty, along with a whole host of legislation to prevent killing.
Here I’m going to focus entirely on abortion in what we hope will be a post-Roe world – state and federal legislation. As usual, these are my own thoughts, not official positions of the Consistent Life Network.
Point 1: Taking Care of Everybody
Several things should have been done all along that, in addition to their own merits, work as abortion prevention – whether abortion’s legal or not. But the idea that states banning abortion have all the more responsibility to pass these has come up in several media spots. For those states insisting on keeping abortion legal, these are some of the things that will be all the more important.
Henry Hyde made a good pro-life case for parental leave; see Paid Family and Medical Leave for the speech and more. The parental leave bill passed, but it’s unpaid, making it unworkable for many.
Raising the minimum wage, by reducing poverty, reduces abortion.
Bolstering Community Health Centers in general – and especially in the vicinity of Planned Parenthood centers that don’t have any nearby – will bring greater access to health care. Even a gridlocked Congress may be able to do this, because both Republicans and Democrats support Community Health Centers. It’s already in the CHC’s legal definition that they don’t do abortions.
The idea of a child allowance was originally proposed to be done through Social Security, but ended up as an expanded tax credit. It was wildly successful in reducing childhood poverty. But then it ended. My opinion is that Social Security payments make a better fit: being a parent is work, and work we need people to do. Sharing in the cost of that makes as much sense as sharing for people with disabilities and retirees. Social security might be more permanent than a tax credit.
One year the National Right to Life Committee and the National Organization for Women had their national conventions in Denver on the same weekend, so I went to major chunks of both. One button popular in both: “Every mother is a working mother.”
There should never family caps on any kind of poverty-relief payments; those have been shown to increase abortions.
Finding better solutions to crime that don’t involve mass incarceration, which can break up families and other support systems for children. Cash bail for those safe enough to be let out can threaten jobs and make pregnancy harder. The exception to the abolition of slavery for those convicted of a crime encourages mistreatment of prisoners.
We need to find ways to make the Hyde amendment permanent. The Hyde Amendment bars federal Medicaid dollars from paying for most abortions. It’s a rider every year. It’s a life-saving measure, as shown in studies. It’s helpful to low-income women, since it removes some of the pressures to abort. Democrats have recently made its passage much more precarious than it used to be.
Point 2: A Horse Trade
I propose a bill that would expand Medicare to cover everyone from conception up to age 18, plus all obstetric care for pregnancies, plus include that the Hyde amendment is permanent and covers all federal programs.
Why Medicare? Because an age-based set of benefits is already established and doesn’t mark the recipient as poor. It has a better reputation with doctors, is more stable, and doesn’t rely on state governments who cut Medicaid.
Children as a whole aren’t the most expensive health care group. Medicaid and CHIP dollars could go into the Medicare budget to cover the same people. Medicare already covers children with disabilities (although that could be better done), so the most expensive children are already in the budget.
For Republicans, having the Hyde amendment permanent, and having conception be the beginning point – would that be so very valuable as to let them swallow their aversion to expanding Medicare?
For Democrats, having a substantial expansion of Medicare – would that be so very valuable as to let them swallow their aversion to the Hyde amendment?
Actually, I doubt it. I fear this is fantasy; positions are so entrenched. But if either one of the parties did decide to propose it, it would surely put the party in a spot, wouldn’t it?
In the meantime, those who follow Catholic and Mennonite doctrine, a large hunk of evangelicals, and us pro-life feminists and consistent lifers would all regard it as a win-win. We like both parts of the deal and wouldn’t regard it as a horse trade at all.
Point 3: Laws Directly on Abortion
Comedian Stephen Colbert noted (at 3:13-3:34) Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s remark, “We can’t stop bad people from doing bad things. They’re going to violate murder laws, they’re not going to follow gun laws. I never understood that argument.” Colbert responded, “I’ve got to say – ‘Laws are pointless’ is a bold position for the attorney general.” Having heard arguments recently that laws against abortion won’t stop all abortions, I apply the same point: for both guns and abortions, laws won’t stop the problem entirely, but they’ll have a substantial impact, and that’s life-saving. You don’t avoid saving some lives just because you can’t save them all.
Suggestions we’ve already made for referendums can also apply to legislation, once allowed:
On stopping late-term abortions, where the best public support is: cast the proposal not in terms of restriction, but protection – it gets the same result, but frames it better. And it will be far more effective and persuasive if other protections of late-term babies are added. Say, health coverage and other supports for the mother, the unborn child, and for children born with disabilities. (We have a list of possibilities and would like to add to it if anyone has suggestions.)
Conscientious objection on state tax dollars could apply to both abortion and the death penalty, and military-related expenditures where that’s in state budgets.
Meanwhile, what’s the impact of laws that ban abortion outright, or after heartbeat detection? We all know women will travel to other states eager to receive them. But there’s a continuum of how much women actually want to do this:
Those who are being pressured or are unsure obviously benefit from having the ready availability of abortion removed. Those who only need a small obstacle or information on alternatives will mostly make their way to birth just fine.
Sidewalk counselors find a steady stream of such women in the most unlikely of places – namely, walking into the facility with an abortion appointment. There are far more such women elsewhere.
When the media report an upsurge of women trying to get appointments in neighboring states, they don’t notice those are only the women on one extreme of the continuum. Pro-lifers encounter women on the other parts all the time.
Also, couples will take more care about getting pregnant when getting un-pregnant is so hard. More women won’t get themselves on that continuum.
In any event, the major impact of abortion-banning legislation will be to close abortion facilities, or the abortion-performing part of some medical clinics. Shutting down the assembly lines of current abortion practice will have a major impact on abortion numbers.
We don’t have to do draconian things to make sure each and every abortion doesn’t happen. Numbers will drop precipitously (they already have in Texas) simply with the passage of the law alone.
At which point, all the things mentioned in Point 1 above, along with more prenatal justice education, become all the more crucial.
For more of our posts on similar topics, see: