Why should aid for families be contingent on overturning abortion rights?

May 9, 2022 8:00 am

Extra assistance for families with children shouldn’t depend on whether or not abortion is legal. (Photo by Getty Images)

The leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that signals the potential demise of constitutional abortion rights has some in the Republican Party suggesting that maybe it’s time to get on board with programs that support parents with young children.

The Washington Post last week quoted several GOP senators who acknowledged new interest in programs that would at least aid people with unplanned pregnancies. Republicans until now have flatly refused Democratic proposals to help parents with children, ranging from expansion of the Child Tax Credit to programs like universal pre-kindergarten or paid family leave.

“We’re of course waiting for the ruling to be finalized, but yes,” Sen. Todd C. Young, R-Ind., said, according to the Post. “We as a party and as a country need to be supportive of women who have unplanned pregnancies — through adoptive services, through health-care services and other means.”

“Of course,” they’re waiting for the ruling to be finalized, Young says.  Of course.

Because, it seems, parents-to-be or those who already have children don’t deserve extra assistance, as long as giving birth is a choice. If abortion is legal, then apparently Young, at least, considers it a valid alternative to public assistance for those who can’t manage the costs associated with childbirth and parenthood. If abortion remains legal, then these lawmakers will probably maintain their position that anyone who chooses to carry a pregnancy to term and rear the child or allow an adoption can do so without any additional aid from Uncle Sam.

It seems these guys can’t help validating all the accusations from advocates of abortion rights that the GOP is only pro-birth, not pro-life.

But it appears some in the GOP are at least a little worried about what voters back home will do if half the states ban abortion with no plan to address the needs of unprepared parents and children outside the womb. It’s like all those morality stories about greedy dimwits who are magically granted their fondest wish, only to learn they should have left the genie in the bottle.

This isn’t intended to be a screed about abortion rights. Just about everyone already has an unshakeable opinion about whether it should be legal. My own views of abortion don’t fit neatly into either of the politically polarized positions over conflicting rights. I believe in the dignity of all human life, including for those waiting to take their first breath. Even so, I’m astounded by people who claim to be “pro-life” while completely disregarding all lives except those of the unborn.

I wrote a column for the Des Moines Register in 2019 that listed ways lawmakers have failed to protect life, including ignoring Iowa’s terrible record of maternal mortality (deaths due to childbirth), and refusing to adequately protect pregnant workers against injury and discrimination on the job. The reaction I got from some “pro-life” friends was outrage that I should suggest that we do everything possible to make childbirth safer, especially in light of laws in some states making it mandatory.

At the time, I had no expectations that Roe v. Wade would cease to exist. But whether abortion is legal or not shouldn’t make any difference when it comes to offering assistance to children and families and protecting the lives and livelihoods of those preparing to give birth. At least, it shouldn’t make any difference to people who value lives of babies and their parents, as opposed to valuing political division and the fundraising it generates.

If GOP lawmakers suddenly want credit for helping families with children, they should do it now, before the Supreme Court issues its final decision.

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Kathie Obradovich
Kathie Obradovich

Editor Kathie Obradovich has been covering Iowa government and politics for more than 30 years, most recently as political columnist and opinion editor for the Des Moines Register. She previously covered the Iowa Statehouse for 10 years for newspapers in Davenport, Waterloo, Sioux City, Mason City and Muscatine. She is a leading voice on Iowa politics and makes regular appearances on state, national and international news programs. She has led national-award-winning coverage of the Iowa Caucuses and the Register’s Iowa Poll.