Sorry, poor people of America. Republicans are quietly sealing all the exits on the poverty trap.
It’s a four-part process, in which officials at all levels of government are taking part:
First, reduce poor women’s access to the reproductive services they need to prevent unintended pregnancies, so they have less control over when, and with whom, they have children.
Second, make it harder for any unexpectedly expecting women to have abortions.
Third, make the adoption process more expensive, reducing incentives for other families to adopt the babies resulting from these unplanned pregnancies. (Yes, amazingly, Republicans plan to do this.)
Finally, cut the services these involuntarily growing low-income families rely on to help support and care for their children, and to move up in the world.
Let’s take a walk through the policies that constitute this poverty-prolonging policy four-step, shall we?
It begins with House Republicans’ American Health Care Act, which would eliminate all federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
Federal dollars are already barred from being used for abortions; the AHCA would prevent federal funds from being used for any other Planned Parenthood service, too. This is unfortunate, given that Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of contraceptive care for poor women in the country. Some of its patients would be able to find other providers of reliable, effective contraception, but many wouldn’t. In more than 100 counties, Planned Parenthood is the only clinic providing publicly supported contraceptive services to poor women, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
In its analysis of the health-care bill, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that about 15 percent of people who live in areas without other clinics or medical practitioners serving low-income populations would lose access to care — leading to more unintended pregnancies.
Now consider that at the state level, Republican officials have been aggressively curbing access to abortion, by banning the procedure after 20 weeks, imposing impossible-to-meet regulatory and licensing requirements on providers, and implementing waiting periods. As a result — and by design, of course — the women who do get pregnant without planning to will be less likely to terminate their pregnancies, even if they are not interested in having a baby. (Incidentally, Medicaid would pay for many of these births; the CBO’s Trumpcare analysis estimated that eliminating Planned Parenthood funding for just a year would leave Medicaid on the hook for “several thousand” additional births.)
What options do these women have, then?
Pro-life conservatives often urge women seeking abortions to consider adoption instead. But under the House Republicans’ tax plan, adoptions would get more expensive.
You read that right.
The House leadership’s “A Better Way” blueprint calls for dramatically cutting tax rates, especially for the rich. It partly pays for these rate cuts by eliminating some credits and deductions. Among those set to go? The adoption tax credit.
Adopting a child can be enormously expensive, running into tens of thousands of dollars. This tax credit was designed to offset some of those costs, up to $13,460 per child, though the credit phases out for higher earners. In 2014, about 74,000 families claimed the credit, costing the government about $355 million, according to Internal Revenue Service data.
For context, the mortgage-interest deduction, which the Republican tax-reform plan would preserve, will cost the federal government about $69 billion this year — about 200 times as much.
I doubt Republicans have anything against adoptive parents; in fact, one of the architects of the House tax plan, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.), is himself an adoptive parent (though at a recent speech, he noted that he did not qualify for the adoption tax credit because his family was in the “wrong tax bracket”). Promoting adoption is just not their priority, pro-life rhetoric to the contrary.
In any case, whatever Republicans’ intentions, the elimination of this tax credit would mean that at least on the margin, women who became pregnant accidentally would have fewer options.
Which leads us, finally, to President Trump’s newly released budget.
Trump’s budget would dramatically slash the social safety net, especially services for the poor, and especially services for poor families. It would cut housing and energy subsidies for low-income households, as well as after-school, before-school and summer programs that millions of parents depend on. Moreover, it would decimate many of the programs that low-income parents and children rely on to climb out of poverty, including job training, college assistance and community banking.
Thus the cumulative effect of Republicans’ family policies: force poor people to have more children than they want or believe they can afford, then tell them and their children that they’re on their own.
So much for family values.
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