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Plan for the Pro-Life Cause

Pregnant-black woman-holding-ultrasound
To reduce unwanted pregnancies, support maternal and prenatal health, and ease the social and economic costs of caring for the child after birth.

In Aesop’s fable “The Old Man and Death,” a man,

bent down doubled with age and toil, was gathering sticks in a forest. At last he grew so tired and hopeless that he threw down the bundle of sticks and cried out: “I cannot bear this life any longer. Death, come and take me!” As he spoke, Death appeared and said to him: “What do you want, Old Man? I heard you call me.” “Please, sir,” he replied, “would you kindly help me lift this load of sticks onto my shoulder?”

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, returning the regulation of abortion to the states, has been something we’ve worked toward tirelessly for decades. The question for many of us in the pro-life community who have been crying out “We can’t bear this any longer” is this: Are we ready to get what we have wished for? Are we prepared to support the women for whom abortion is no longer an option to end an unwanted pregnancy?

Abortion rates and out-of-wedlock birth rates have both been decreasing over the past decade. (Notably, a growing percentage of abortions have been through chemical means.) It is estimated that between 600,000 (CDC) and 800,000 (Guttmacher) abortions take place in the U.S. annually, most of them among women in their twenties (ages 20–24 in 34 percent of abortions, and ages 25–29 in 27 percent of abortions). Those younger than 20 accounted for 12 percent of abortions; less than 4 percent were younger than 18. This means that, unlike the stereotype of “the unwed teen,” most abortions are to post-high-school, college, and working women whose choices are driven heavily by career or other life-trajectory concerns.

And if we consider that 20 percent of the women who would have pursued an abortion will now carry their child to term, we will have an increase of 120,000 to 160,000 babies born annually to women who in many cases are struggling in difficult life-cycle or economic circumstances.

Over the years, we have written on federal policies that we consider “pro-life” that support pregnant women, not just policies that restrict abortion. This line of thinking is no longer a luxury of thought for pro-lifers like us. It is an obligation of pro-life advocacy in the future as we enter what will be a dynamic, uncertain, and uneven state landscape for years to come.

After talking with quite a few pro-life leaders over the past few weeks, we know that many are torn over the question of where to put their attention and energy after the Supreme Court’s decision. Some feel restrained from supporting a “safety net” for women, out of ideological concerns, and others feel restrained owing to limits on their time and bandwidth or to perceived mission creep. However, a number of leaders understand that our expressions of concern for life would ring hollow without our movement’s advocacy of a support system for pregnant women and their babies.

We’ve been picking up sticks of policy ideas throughout the conversations, and although we are sure there are more to add to the bundle, let us propose ten policies that pro-life organizations can rally around. The aim is to reduce unwanted pregnancies, support the health of the woman and her child throughout pregnancy and gestation, and ease the social and economic costs of caring for the child after birth.

Reducing PregnanciesThe best way to reduce abortions has always been to reduce unplanned pregnancies. We should continue to support efforts and funding for non-abortive family spacing and successful pregnancy-prevention programs at the local, state, and federal levels. In addition, we should market and promote creative public-policy ideas such as the Brookings Institution’s “success sequence.” It would not only prevent unwanted pregnancies. It would also alleviate poverty. Following the success sequence — graduating high school, landing a job, getting married, and then having children — shrinks the possibility of living in poverty by over 95 percent.

Supporting Women and Children throughout PregnancyFirst, we should work to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, currently sponsored by Senators Bill Cassidy (R., La.) and Robert Casey Jr. (D., Pa.). This bill would prevent employers from discriminating against women who are pregnant or for pregnancy-related issues. The measure has passed the House. It’s time for the Senate to act.

Second, we need to keep the SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) unborn-child regulations in place. In 2002, the Department of Health and Human Services improved SCHIP by specifying that the word “child” in the statute may include the period from conception to birth. Numerous states chose to provide health care to pregnant women and their unborn children under this regulatory option. The administration should keep the unborn-child regulation in place so that states that have chosen that option can be secure in choosing to provide health services to needy children and their mothers.

Third, we should support efforts to make health care affordable and available for pregnant women and their children in the first 1,000 days of life, beginning at conception. Pro-life leaders should be vocal supporters of federal programs like WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) and be willing to partner with organizations such as 1,000 Days, which champions the importance of good nutrition in the time between the start of a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday.

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Source: Pro-Life Cause: A Marshall Plan after Roe | National Review

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