Terry McLaughlin: Encouraging news for pro-life Americans
In the weeks following the election of President Joe Biden, genuine anguish has been expressed by pro-life Americans about the prospects for defending the life of the unborn under the new administration.
Like other Democratic presidents before him, he has reversed the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits foreign organizations that receive aid from the U.S. from providing abortion services.
President Biden has also reversed his own decades-long support for the Hyde Amendment, which prevents the funding of abortions through the Medicaid program. The repeal of the Hyde Amendment would represent the first truly substantial change in federal abortion law in a generation and could result in tens of thousands of additional abortions each year.
Reinstating the Mexico City Policy will likely have to await the next GOP president, but preservation of the Hyde Amendment is possible if West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin keeps his word. In a recent interview with National Review, he said, “Repealing the Hyde Amendment would be foolish and I’m strongly opposed to this push from some members of Congress. If this legislation is brought before the Senate, I will vote against repealing the Hyde Amendment.”
Sen. Manchin will undoubtedly be under tremendous pressure from his Democratic colleagues, and will need the support of pro-life Americans.
The good news is that the U.S. abortion rate hit an historic low in 2017. Since the initial surge in abortion rates after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, the rate has declined through every American presidency, and this long-term trend is deeply encouraging.
There is no reason to presume that this 40-year positive trend will change, and there is every reason to believe that the most effective forms of pro-life engagement can continue, even under a Biden administration.
In July 2020, the University of Notre Dame released the results of an in-depth study into the way Americans understand abortion. They found that the core challenge rests less on the supply side, or the availability of access to legal abortion, than on the demand side.
None of those interviewed considered abortion desirable. “Even those most supportive of abortion’s legality nonetheless talk about it as ‘hard,’ ‘serious,’ not ‘happy,’ or benign at best,” according to the report. “Stories from those who have had abortions are likewise harrowing, even when the person telling it retains a commitment to abortion’s availability.”
The report found that people would welcome discussions about abortion, but “the silence surrounding abortion is a partial consequence of the shouting that surrounds it publicly.”
The researchers “heard contemplations such as, what was the nature of the relationship between conceiving partners? How did they approach pregnancy prevention, if at all? Was there sufficient knowledge about potential outcomes?What kinds of support are available to people facing unplanned pregnancies? What are the stages of prenatal development? What health situations would put a mother or baby at risk? What does it take to raise a child? What impact does having a child have on professional aspirations, or on reputation, or on permanent ties between conceiving partners? What roles do men and women play in parenthood? How accessible is a choice like adoption? What are the conditions of children in foster care?”
Respondents desired to see ways to “prevent, reduce and eliminate potentially difficult or unexpected circumstances” that can lead a woman to seek an abortion. “Americans — by and large — do not approach abortion with callousness, but with sensitivity and a recognition that it is a tough issue.”
Regardless of the administration, there are no barriers for pro-life Americans to directly impact women’s choices by performing personal intervention, supporting church ministries, supporting crisis pregnancy centers, and supporting effective public policy.
In the arena of public policy, which is never perfect and always requires making trade-offs, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney has recently proposed The Family Security Act, which could potentially transform the financial condition of many of America’s poorest families.
Under his proposal non-affluent families would receive a maximum of $1,250 per month — $350 per child up to age 6, and $250 for children ages 6 to 17. These payments would begin four months prior to a child’s due date, and would phase out as income levels rise. In order to remain deficit-neutral, the bill proposes consolidation or elimination of overlapping and often duplicative federal policies, tax credits and deductions.
Estimates are that this child allowance would reduce U.S. child poverty by roughly one-third, and reduce deep child poverty by half.
Given that financial concerns factor into the abortion decision, it’s possible that the Romney proposal could provide a vehicle for using public policy to promote life, and even move the tax code toward a more marriage-friendly position.
The left regularly argues that if pro-life Americans truly cared about abortion, they would support expanded social welfare programs.
While increased financial security can certainly ease concerns of expectant mothers, government programs often do not perform as advertised. In this case, however, Sen. Romney’s proposal appears to deserve serious consideration and discussion.
The direct aid to even expectant mothers could not only decrease poverty and increase childbearing, but it could give a worried mom the confidence she needs to make the choice she likely wants to make — to keep her child.
Politics do matter, but no presidential administration can stop you from volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center, adopting, or becoming a foster parent. You can donate to those working to assist mothers and children and to save lives.
These personal interventions are vital to preserving life in a nation that increasingly dislikes abortion, but refuses to ban it.
Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Grass Valley, writes a twice monthly column for The Union. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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