The anti-life policies of “pro-life” lawmakers

America is on the cusp of a post-Roe future in which women are forced to carry pregnancies to term without free maternity health care, nurse newborns without paid family leave, and raise children without enough food.

In the year following a potential discarding of Roe v. Wade, about 100,000 women seeking abortions won’t be able to get them from providers, according to ProPublica (this is a conservative estimate, in my opinion). “Overwhelmingly, it is the poorest and most vulnerable women who are the most affected.”

Yet, the lawmakers cheering on the conservative Supreme Court majority—and voting against codifying abortion protections—are the same who oppose life-saving policies for mothers and children alike.

Maternity care

In 2010, the Democratic-controlled House and Senate passed the Affordable Care Act, mandating for the first time that prenatal, postnatal, and maternity care be covered by all insurance plans. An uncomplicated hospital delivery costs $16,884 (median). Without any complications, a cesarean delivery costs $22,646 on average. Prior to the ACA’s full implementation, only 12% of individual health insurance plans included coverage of maternity services.

39 senators, all Republicans voted against the ACA, including 14 that are in currently in office:

  • Barrasso (WY)
  • Burr (NC)
  • Collins (ME)
  • Cornyn (TX)
  • Crapo (WV)
  • Graham (SC)
  • Grassley (IA)
  • Inhofe (OK)
  • McConnell (KY)
  • Murkowski (AK)
  • Risch (ID)
  • Shelby (AL)
  • Thune (SD)
  • Wicker (MS)

The entire House Republican conference, 178 strong, voted against the ACA. 39 of these Republicans are still in office:

  • Aderholt (AL)
  • Bilirakis (FL)
  • Brady (TX)
  • Buchanan (FL)
  • Burgess (TX)
  • Calvert (CA)
  • Carter (TX)
  • Cole (OK)
  • Diaz-Balart (FL)
  • Foxx (NC)
  • Gohmert (TX)
  • Granger (TX)
  • Graves (MO)
  • Guthrie (KY)
  • Issa (CA)
  • Jordan (OH)
  • Lamborn (CO)
  • Latta (OH)
  • Lucas (OK)
  • Luetkemeyer (MO)
  • McCarthy (CA)
  • McCaul (TX)
  • McClintock (CA)
  • McHenry (NC)
  • McMorris Rodgers (WA)
  • Pence (IN)
  • Posey (FL)
  • Rogers (AL)
  • Rogers (KY)
  • Scalise (LA)
  • Sessions (TX)
  • Simpson (ID)
  • Smith (NE)
  • Smith (NJ)
  • Thompson (PA)
  • Turner (OH)
  • Upton (MI)
  • Wilson (SC)
  • Wittman (VA)

Then, in 2017, Republicans attempted to repeal the ACA, revoking maternity care for millions of women each year. In fact, about 13 million women gained access to maternity services during the three years between the Medicaid expansion and the Trump-era repeal attempt.

All but three Republican senators (McCain, Murkowski, and Collins) voted for the repeal. 37 Republicans who voted for the appeal are still in office:

  • Barrasso (WY)
  • Blunt (MO)
  • Boozman (AR)
  • Burr (NC)
  • Capito (WV)
  • Cassidy (LA)
  • Cornyn (TX)
  • Cotton (AR)
  • Crapo (ID)
  • Cruz (TX)
  • Daines (MT)
  • Ernst (IA)
  • Fischer (NE)
  • Graham (SC)
  • Grassley (IA)
  • Hoeven (ND)
  • Inhofe (OK)
  • Johnson (WI)
  • Kennedy (LA)
  • Lankford (OK)
  • Lee (UT)
  • McConnell (KY)
  • Moran (KS)
  • Paul (KY)
  • Portman (OH)
  • Risch (ID)
  • Rounds (SD)
  • Rubio (FL)
  • Sasse (NE)
  • Scott (SC)
  • Shelby (AL)
  • Sullivan (AK)
  • Thune (SD)
  • Tillis (NC)
  • Tommey (PA)
  • Wicker (MS)
  • Young (IN)

Paid family leave

Around the world, employers are required to provide new parents with paid leave. Estonia offers the most, more than a year and a half of paid leave, while countries like Israel, Mexico, and Turkey fall in the midrange of ~14 weeks paid leave. The United States, one of the richest countries in the world, is an outlier—failing to guarantee any paid time off.

Providing just 12 weeks of paid parental leave at the national level would conservatively lead to 600 fewer infant deaths per year. Mothers who take paid leave are less likely to experience postpartum depression and less likely to report parenting stress. Furthermore, paid parental leave lowers the risk of poverty among mothers of infants by roughly 10% and increases household income for those mothers by 4.1%, on average.

California’s statewide paid family leave program, in effect since 2004, is associated with improved health outcomes for children in early elementary school, including reduced issues with maintaining a healthy weight, ADHD and hearing-related problems, particularly for less-advantaged children, likely due to reduced prenatal stress, increased breastfeeding and increased parental care during infancy

Congress most recently attempted to pass paid family leave as part of Biden’s social infrastructure bill, called the Build Back Better Act. The original proposal included 12 weeks of paid leave (a modest amount compared to other countries), but was whittled down to 4 weeks in order to gain the support of centrists in Congress. Every House Republican (212) voted against the bill.

  • The Build Back Better Act ultimately failed in the Senate due to the objections of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin (WV). “I don’t think it belongs in the bill,” he said. Manchin has also voted against codifying abortion rights.

Individual states, however, are free to enact paid family leave policies on their own; California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington state, and the District of Columbia have paid family leave laws.

  • All Republicans voted against providing paid family leave in Maryland, the most recent state to enact paid leave.
  • All Republicans voted against providing paid family leave in Washington state.
  • All Republicans voted against providing paid family leave in Connecticut.
  • All Republicans voted against providing paid family leave in Massachusetts.
  • All but eight Republicans voted against a bill expanding paid family leave in New York (I could not find the vote breakdown for the bill initiating the policy).

Food stamps

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps, serves close to 40 million Americans each month, nearly 90% of whom are families with children, elderly people, or people with disabilities. According to one study, “SNAP raised the income of 7.3 million people above the poverty line in 2016—including 3.3 million children”.

Recipients of SNAP benefits experience better health outcomes throughout different stages of life:

Children receiving SNAP report better health status than do their counterparts who are not recipients, and their households are less likely to have to sacrifice health care to pay for other necessary expenses. When compared with families who keep benefits, working families with children younger than 4 years who lose at least some of their SNAP benefits have a higher risk of negative health outcomes.

Under President Trump, Republican lawmakers sought to drastically cut SNAP by restricting eligibility and expanding work requirements. In sum, the changes would have taken food assistance away from an estimated 2 million people. 213 House Republicans approved of slashing SNAP benefits, with only 20 breaking ranks.

The plan ultimately failed; the bill passed without the cuts to SNAP. So President Trump had the USDA implement cuts to SNAP, circumventing lawmakers. Luckily for the 700,000 adults (with average cash incomes of about $367 a month) set to lose food assistance, the courts stepped in and Trump lost the election before the plan could take effect. Biden’s USDA increased food aid instead.

Unfortunately for SNAP recipients in conservative areas, state government has the power to cut benefits regardless of federal action:

  • All Ohio state Senate Republicans voted to pass a budget that increased obstacles for families attempting to obtain food assistance.
  • All Iowa state Senate Republicans voted for a bill that would push thousands off SNAP benefits. Americans for Prosperity, funded by David and Charles Koch, lobbied for the bill.
  • All but two Indiana House Republicans voted to end SNAP benefits to anyone who was delinquent on their child support payments. The state Senate removed the provision before enactment.
  • All Arkansas state House and Senate Republicans voted to apply work requirements to a larger pool of people seeking food assistance.