Every January 22, anti-choice activists travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in the March for Life. It’s their way of marking the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in all 50 states. The signs carried by the marchers always declare their love of babies and their desire to protect families. Their end goal, however, is to eliminate abortion nationwide; the organizers have also recently taken on the false and scientifically incorrect idea that oral contraceptives are actually abortifacients. Science be damned, the march is usually attended by hundreds of thousands of people from all over the country—including a congressional delegation.
This year, U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, a Republican from Washington State, together with Representatives Dan Lipinski, Democrat of Illinois; and Chris Smith, the New Jersey Republican, will be represent Congress at the march. U.S. Senator Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, will also be on hand. Like most anti-choice politicians, McMorris-Rodgers likes to tout her so-called pro-family beliefs, but a closer examiation reveals that, at least for McMorris-Rodgers, being pro-family doesn’t have anything to do with supporting policies that can help families everywhere thrive.
At the beginning of President Barack Obama’s first term, McMorris-Rodgers voted no on the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. This renewal included increased funding for the program, which benefitted low-income children and pregnant women—the very people who March for Life participants claim to be marching for. The act passed both the House and the Senate and became law.
In June 2009, Rep. Carolyn Maloney introduced the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act, which would allow federal employees to be paid for four of the twelve weeks allotted for parental leave. (Current law allows only unpaid parental leave for federal workers.) That time could be used for the birth of a child or the placement of a child with the employee for either adoption or foster care. The Congressional Budget office scored the bill as “PAYGO-neutral”—meaning that it wouldn’t affect direct spending. The 2009 act introduced by Maloney did not go far enough, but it would have been a step in the right direction.
A law like this would allow mothers and fathers with federal jobs to take care of their children better by lessening the financial burden of doing so—something someone who claims to support families should be able to get behind. McMorris-Rodgers voted no. The act passed the House but died in the Senate. (A 2013 version has languished in committee.)
Currently, 43 million American workers have no paid sick leave. For them, an illness or the illness of a loved one comes with the risk of losing wages, or worse, their jobs. One would think that Obama’s renewed vigor on paid family leave should be extremely attractive to anti-choice activists, with their love of large families.
Why should policies that support families be a top priority for anti-choice activists? Having a child in this country is remarkably pricey—and this is why a majority of women who choose to terminate a pregnancy do so. According to a 2004 Guttmacher Institute survey, 73 percent of women who have an abortion say they made that choice because they could not afford to raise a child. Of those women, 28 percent said that they could not afford childcare, with another 23 percent of respondents saying that they could not afford to provide a child the basic needs of life. The average cost of raising one child is now $245,000 dollars. In 31 states, daycare alone costs more than college.
Essentially, proponents for the March for Life, and others who don’t believe in the right to choose, have forced women between a rock and a hard place: demonized for having a perfectly safe and legal procedure, but given absolutely no aid if she chooses to carry to term. Implementing policies that value families—like paid family leave—would be the true pro-family thing to do. Restricting a woman’s right to abortion while opposing the ways that would allow her take care of herself and her child proves that anti-choicers don’t care about families, they care about control over women’s bodies—and women’s lives.