In 2017, after years of vowing to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, Republicans took control of the White House and Congress and finally had the power to deliver. They then realized they had forgotten to come up with the “replace” part, so they slapped together a plan without a single congressional hearing; their bill was mercifully defeated.
Something similar is happening now, even if it won’t end the same way. After decades of claiming they wanted to outlaw abortion, not to control women’s bodies and lives but because they care deeply about the welfare of babies and their mothers, Republicans are finally going to get what they’re after.
Now they’re facing some pointed questions, and are scrambling to pretend they do care about what happens to the women they’ll be forcing to carry a pregnancy to term against their will, and the children who will be born as a result.
Here’s the reality: Where Republicans are in charge, maternal health is worse, infant mortality is higher, and families are more likely to lack access to health care and live in all kinds of precarity. It’s enough to make you think they aren’t as “pro-family” as they’ve been saying all these years.
But now they tell us they’re going to try. The New York Times has an op-ed from a fellow at a conservative think tank with suggestions for family-friendly policies Republicans might want to support, from extending the enhanced child tax credit to better maternity coverage in Medicaid to more child care. In other words, they should start acting like Democrats.
To which one has to reply: You’re just considering this now?
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves attracted some attention on Sunday when he refused to say on CNN whether his state would outlaw contraception now that Roe v. Wade is likely to be overturned. As disturbing as that is, the rest of Reeves’s comments, and those of other Republicans, are just as revealing.
There’s no better poster child for the neglect and contempt with which the GOP treats women and children than Reeves’s Mississippi, and the dishonesty of its claim to be “pro-family.”
When asked what he’d be doing to help women being denied abortions, Reeves bragged, “I have signed legislation to provide help and resources and money to the 37 pregnancy resource centers that are located in every region of our state.”
In case you haven’t heard the term “pregnancy resource center,” it’s sometimes also called a “crisis pregnancy center.” Rather than providing genuine health care to pregnant women, the goal of these outfits is to dissuade women from getting abortions, often by subjecting them to lies and propaganda about how an abortion will give them terrible diseases and drive them mad.
Since the whole purpose of those centers is to prevent abortion, it’s hard to see why they won’t just shut down once the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade and Mississippi makes nearly all abortions illegal.
Reeves went on to make a candid admission:
My view is that the next phase of the pro-life movement is focusing on helping those moms that maybe have an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy. The next phase of the pro-life movement is making sure that those babies, once born, have a productive life. And while I’m sure there will be conversations around America regarding that, it’s not something that we have spent a lot of time focused on.
He’s certainly right about that. They have, however, spent a lot of time claiming that they want to help women and children. But rhetoric was as far as it went.
There’s no better example than Mississippi, though it’s far from alone among red states where conditions for women and children are awful. If you look at states ranked by infant mortality, you’ll quickly see the partisan and geographic pattern. The worst on the list are Southern states where Republican power is absolute: Mississippi is at the bottom, followed by Louisiana, West Virginia, Arkansas and Alabama.
In fact, you’ll have to go all the way up to the 16th-worst state (Maine) before you find one where Democrats run the government. The best states for infant mortality are all blue: Vermont, California, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.
Mississippi’s rate of maternal mortality is also about twice the national average. It’s seventh-worst in the country in the proportion of residents lacking health insurance — and yes, the six worse states are also run by the GOP. Mississippi is one of 12 Republican states that spurned the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, and GOP legislators there recently refused to extend postpartum care in its existing Medicaid program beyond the current 60 days.
We’re hearing the same thing from other Republicans: Now that we’re about to force women to carry their pregnancies to term, we’ll finally get around to making our states less bleak places to bear a child. “I believe that we want to increase the services for maternal health, to increase the services for adoption services as well,” said Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on ABC’s “This Week.”
Do you believe them? Or do you think that once people get used to living in the post-Roe America, Republicans will forget all about their supposed commitment to mothers and babies, and keep doing what they’ve been doing all along, while they bask in the glow of their victory, knowing that those uppity women have been shown what their proper place is?
I think we all know the answer.