The leak of the Supreme Court’s draft majority opinion in the Dobbs case suggests that conservatives have succeeded in our half-century push to recognize in law the value of every human life.

But being pro-life and pro-family requires more than just taking steps to prohibit abortion. It means offering a positive vision for expectant parents and families, a vision that makes it more affordable to raise children in America. Such a vision will include taking a number of steps to support new parents, from Medicaid coverage of mothers for up to one year after birth to paid parental leave.

The best thing Republicans could do for a post-Roe America would be to coalesce around a signature reform and expansion of the child tax credit, or CTC.

A stable and predictable child tax credit could provide tremendous peace of mind to couples facing an unplanned pregnancy and make family life more achievable and affordable for working- and middle-class parents. Collapsing the tangle of existing child benefits, earned income tax credit adjustments and child care deductions into a straightforward monthly benefit would allow parents to use that money in the way that suits their family best, whether that be for food and clothing, tutoring, private school or child care. 

A generous family benefit should be the centerpiece of a conservative, post-Roe family agenda. But it would do far more than just resolve the financial strains of an unplanned pregnancy. Working-class families have seen the biggest declines in family stability in recent years — in part due to financial instability. Meanwhile, fertility rates have fallen to a record low despite an increase in the number of children women desire to have. Direct financial support would be a worthy first step to addressing these emerging crises.

Last year, the Biden administration expanded the child tax credit to virtually all families, including those with no workers. But a series of focus groups conducted by the Institute for Family Studies in Georgia, Ohio and Texas last year suggested that many working-class parents view unconditional cash benefits as fundamentally unfair. Polling from American Compass also shows that child benefits with no connection to work are unpopular. 

The child tax credit is resetting to its prior structure this year, which provides Republicans with a unique political opportunity to set the tone for a post-Roe policy environment — not only to make the CTC more generous, but to emphasize the GOP’s commitments to the value of work and the importance of the married, two-parent family. 

First, Republicans should increase the value of the child tax credit. They should offer a generous family benefit equal to $800 per month to pregnant women beginning in the fifth month of pregnancy, $400 per month from birth until the child’s sixth birthday and then $250 per month until the child’s 18th birthday.

Second, Republicans should make the full credit available to more working families. Currently, more affluent families receive more support than many working-class families. In fact, right now many working-class parents, particularly Black and Hispanic families, do not get the full benefits. A political party concerned with making working-class parents’ lives better would extend the full credit to more working families.

To be eligible for the full benefit, families should be required to hit an earnings threshold that matches the value of the benefit itself. All families that made that amount or above (up to an upper limit for the wealthiest households) in the previous year would be eligible for a monthly child benefit for the following fiscal year. Families whose earnings fell below the threshold would instead receive a benefit equivalent to their earnings — thereby potentially doubling or replacing their income — as well as continued support from existing safety net programs like SNAP, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and WIC. 

Shifting to a threshold-type model would create a clear, easily understandable link to having at least one working parent and give parents a dependable source of financial support. 

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Third, Republicans should emphasize the importance of the married, two-parent family by adopting an explicitly pro-marriage design. Conservatives have rightly emphasized the importance of marriage as the overwhelming weight of research indicates that married, two-parent households provide the best environment for children. Yet for too long, public policy has penalized married, working-class parents seeking assistance. Policymakers should right the wrongs of existing marriage penalties and offer a tangible validation of marriage’s value to children. Married parents eligible for the child tax credit should also receive a 20% supplement. 

A post-Roe America will demand a new type of politics. The leaked Dobbs opinion, should it hold, will further scramble our realigning political coalitions and compel conservative policymakers to define what it means to be truly pro-life and pro-family. 

Pundits now speculate that Republicans have the opportunity to be “The Parents’ Party,” a coalition fighting for parents’ ability to raise their kids according to the values they hold dear. So far Republican policymakers have taken up the banner by championing parents’ rights in education. But parents have significant economic interests as well, and financial stress leads many expecting couples and mothers to seek an abortion. 

With Republicans projected to take back the House and possibly the Senate, the GOP may find itself in the same position it did in 1997, when the original child tax credit was passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Democratic president. They would do well to seize the opportunity for a sequel. 

A streamlined and expanded CTC would support parents financially in a way that reinforces work and marriage. As importantly, it would demonstrate that the GOP’s rebrand as the “Parents’ Party” is not just a cultural concern, but an economic commitment.

Brad Wilcox, a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, is the Future of Freedom fellow at the Institute for Family Studies and a nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Wells King is the research director at American Compass and a former policy advisor to Congress’s Joint Economic Committee.