When Roe v. Wade was overturned, innumerable viral posts went around social media along these lines:
If Roe was really about babies, we’d have excellent and free universal maternity care. You wouldn’t be charged a cent to give birth, no matter how complicated your delivery was. If it was really about babies, we’d have months of paid parental leave, for everyone.
If Roe was about babies, we’d have free lactation consultants, free diapers, free formula. If it was about babies, we’d have free and excellent child care from newborns on. If it was about babies, we’d have universal preschool and pre-K and guaranteed after-school placement.
Because we don’t, and because conservatives (who largely make up the anti-abortion movement) don’t support such programs, liberals say that their activism isn’t really on behalf of babies. Instead, their decades of work can and should be attributed to their deep-seated desire to subjugate women. Yes, you heard that right: women who have toiled for years to end abortion are just working for the patriarchy.
If it were really about the babies, we’d have exceptional national healthcare, parental leave, subsidized childcare and other policies that care for this precious child from fertilization through formative years.— Katelyn Jackson Nnake (She/Her) (@KatelynJNnake) June 24, 2022
But it’s not about the babies. It’s about control.
The reality of why conservatives don’t support such programs is quite simple: Conservatives do not believe that expanding the role of government into that of caretaker is beneficial to anyone but the government. We see the effects of universal health care and the ineffectiveness of child care programs like Head Start, we see how dysfunctional government-run schools are, and we’d like to tap the brakes on further expansion of government into the lives of the American people. We don’t think government is the answer; it’s why we’re conservatives in the first place.
Conservatives could, of course, turn these accusations on their head. They could say if these groups and individuals really supported choice, abortion-rights supporters would promote and donate to crisis pregnancy centers. These centers provide potential new mothers with health care, baby items like diapers and strollers, parenting classes and support. Instead, in the wake of Roe’s reversal, we’ve seen crisis pregnancy centers attacked, in theory and physically. The Family Research Council is keeping an exhaustive list of dozens of attacks at crisis pregnancy centers, in addition to attacks on anti-abortion organizations and churches.
If politicians truly supported choice, they’d speak out against these attacks. Instead, we see prominent Democrats like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., trying to use the force of government to bully these centers further by establishing federal penalties for any advertising that the Federal Trade Commission deems “disinformation.”
Conservatives support crisis pregnancy centers and have for decades because we believe in the power of people, not in the power of government.
That’s not to say that conservatives don’t support government action of any kind to assist mothers and families. Writing for Deseret News recently, Patrick Brown, a fellow at the Ethics & Public Policy Center, discussed Republican support for expanded child tax credits in the last administration, both in the White House and on the Hill.
“Just a few weeks ago, a monthly child benefit, with payments going to pregnant moms four months before birth, was introduced by Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, along with North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr and Montana Sen. Steve Daines. Texas has invested $100 million in programs aimed at pregnant moms, while other red states have opted into expanded postpartum Medicaid coverage,” Brown wrote.
And Romney’s plan isn’t the only Republican proposal; Brown noted that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has put forth one at well.
Two can play this game, and two should. Why isn’t Warren negotiating with Romney and Rubio to get legislation passed that offers women real choices?
But of course, it’s not a game; the argument over Roe and abortion is about real people’s lives, the lives of mothers and their babies.
This is why few conservatives are lobbing cheap shots over the aisle; they recognize the gravity of the work ahead: building additional layers of the security net to help support women who might have otherwise chosen abortion.
The answer isn’t more government spending, and any attempts at bloating an already incredibly bloated federal government will be a nonstarter among conservatives. Politicians who demand a larger and more expensive federal government — while calling for the closure of privately run centers that provide poor women with diapers, wipes, cribs and strollers — aren’t looking to pass meaningful legislation or enact change. They want to make headlines, not help.
This is a serious time, and it calls for serious people and serious deliberation. This is a moment for bipartisan agreement.
Bethany Mandel is a contributing writer for Deseret News. She is a home-schooling mother of five and a widely published writer on politics, culture and Judaism. She is an editor for the children’s book series “Heroes of Liberty.”