Tag Archives: child welfare

Putting Their Money Where Their Mouths Are–NOT

Even in Kansas–a deep-red state--voters have seen through the pious lies of the forced birth movement.

Rabid anti-abortion activists insist that they care about “both”–the woman and the fetus that they insist upon calling a baby. The New York Times recently published some data that shows just how hollow that declaration really is.

Pro-choice advocates have long emphasized that hollowness: the fact that the forced-birth movement conveniently ignores the complexities of pregnancy and its impact on women’s health, and the fact that once those little fetuses become actual babies, interest in their welfare magically evaporates. As the saying goes, the Times article brings the receipts.

The headline and sub-head really tell the story: “States With Abortion Bans Are Among Least Supportive for Mothers and Children.” “They tend to have the weakest social services and the worst results in several categories of health and well-being.” Extensive charts confirm the message that the states that are most hostile to abortion score poorly on a wide variety of health and well-being outcomes, while states supportive of abortion rights  have more generous social safety nets.

You might conclude that–in states where legislators actually give a rat’s patootie about women and babies–they pass laws that both respect female autonomy and provide support for the children of women who choose to give birth. They put their money where their mouths are.

Let’s look at Mississippi–a state Indiana seems to be trying to emulate:

In Mississippi, which brought the abortion case that ended Roe v. Wade before the Supreme Court, Gov. Tate Reeves vowed that the state would now “take every step necessary to support mothers and children.”

Today, however, Mississippi fares poorly on just about any measure of that goal. Its infant and maternal mortality rates are among the worst in the nation.

State leaders have rejected the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, leaving an estimated 43,000 women of reproductive age without health insurance. They have chosen not to extend Medicaid to women for a full year after giving birth. And they have a welfare program that gives some of the country’s least generous cash assistance — a maximum of $260 a month for a poor mother raising two children.

If it was only Mississippi, that would be bad enough, but the Times investigation found that in the 24 states that have banned abortion (or probably will) policies on a broad range of outcomes are substantially worse than in states where abortion will probably remain legal. The article cited policies on child and maternal mortality, teenage birthrates and the share of women and children who have no health insurance.

The majority of these states have turned down the yearlong Medicaid postpartum extension. Nine have declined the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, which provides health care to the poor. None offer new parents paid leave from work to care for their newborns.

One of the charts accompanying the text lists the states that have banned or dramatically restricted abortion or are likely to, along with their ranks on lack of insurance, maternal and infant mortality, and child poverty. (They all appear to be Red states. Indiana, unsurprisingly, is toward the bottom of those categories, just as we are at the bottom of states in voter turnout–which may not be a data point as unconnected as it first appears…among other issues, gerrymandering is bad for women.)

Indiana ranks 30th in its percentage of insured women; 41st in maternal mortality; 39th in infant mortality, and 28th in child poverty.  Those rankings are likely to sink even further after our retrograde legislature’s attack on women’s autonomy.

The article also acknowledges the role of racism.

Studies have repeatedly found that states where the safety net is less generous and harder to access tend to be those with relatively more Black residents. That has further implications for Black women, who have a maternal mortality rate nationally that is nearly three times that of white women.

The article has other examples of “pro life” states’ lack of concern for those “precious babies” once they are actually born.

None of the states that have banned abortion (or are likely to) guarantee parents paid leave from work to care for and bond with their newborns. Just 11 states and the District of Columbia do. Paid leave has been shown to benefit infants’ health and mothers’ physical and mental health as well as their economic prospects.

In most states, there is no guaranteed child care for children until they enter kindergarten at age 5. Subsidies available to low-income families cover a small segment of eligible children, ranging from less than 4 percent in Arkansas (which now bans abortion) to more than 17 percent in Vermont (which passed abortion rights legislation).

I encourage you to click through. Read the statistics and peruse the charts. And the next time someone piously proclaims that they “love them both,” hand them a copy.

 

Well, I Guess I Stand Corrected

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a speech I’d given about the perceived conflict between “religious liberty” and civil rights. The basic thrust of the talk was that even in the freest societies, all liberties –including religious ones–have limits.

As an example, I pointed out that we don’t allow people to commit infanticide even if they have a totally sincere belief that their God wants them to sacrifice their firstborn.

When we discuss First Amendment freedoms in my classes, we talk about the more common questions that arise when parents have religious beliefs that forbid medical interventions even for children who are desperately ill, or parents who believe they are “called” to beat the devil out of their children. Courts generally do not look favorably on these assertions of “religious liberty” or “parental rights.”

So imagine my surprise when I came across this headline: “Idaho Is Reconsidering the Law Allowing Religious Parents to Kill Their Kids Without Punishment.”

Idaho is one of only six states where you can escape charges of negligent homicide, manslaughter, or capital murder as long as it happened as an exercise of your religious faith.

So if your child dies because your Christian Science religion prevented you from taking her to a doctor, you won’t be punished. And Idaho is the only state of those six where children have actually lost their lives as a result of their parents’ religious beliefs.

Evidently, an Idaho legislative committee is “studying” whether this law needs to be changed. A prosecutor who testified at a hearing convened by the committee explained that the law prevents her from charging such parents with child abuse or neglect, even though parents engaging in identical behaviors not based upon doctrinal belief would be criminally liable.

Pew recently posted a review of the states having the same or similar exemptions.

All states prosecute parents whose children come to severe harm through neglect. But in 34 states (as well as the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico), there are exemptions in the civil child abuse statutes when medical treatment for a child conflicts with the religious beliefs of parents, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Additionally, some states have religious exemptions to criminal child abuse and neglect statutes, including at least six that have exemptions to manslaughter laws.

Law is all about drawing lines. Respect for other people’s religious beliefs is an important value, but one would think that the well-being–indeed, the lives– of children would be an even more important value, one that would take precedence when that particular line is being drawn.

Where are all those “pro life” people when you need them? (Oh–I forgot–they’re not really “pro life,” they’re pro birth.)

I can’t help wondering–given the rhetoric of this election season–how much “respect” for “sincere religious belief” our lawmakers would display if the parents in question were Muslims…

 

Indiana’s Children

Sunday sermon.

According to the Indianapolis Star, the improving state economy touted by Gov. Mike Pence at campaign stops “has yet to trickle down to the 345,000 Hoosier children, or more than 1 in 5, living in poverty.”

In a recent editorial, the Anderson Herald Bulletin urged lawmakers to deal with the reality of Indiana’s working poor.

The Herald Bulletin has reported extensively this year on a group labeled Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) in a study released in 2014 by the Indiana Association of United Ways.

About 23 percent of Indiana’s population and about 28 percent of people living in Madison County belong to the ALICE group. While they earn too much income to qualify for most forms of welfare, they earn too little to afford necessities, pay monthly bills and save enough money to handle unexpected expenses such as illnesses and car repairs. Hoosiers who belong to this group find themselves in a spiral of debt toward poverty.

Many belonging to the ALICE group have children and find that paying for child care while they work is often a money-losing proposition. In Indiana, the Child Care Development Fund provides subsidies to help financially insecure families pay for child care.

It’s a great program, but it has a major flaw. A slight rise in income level can cause a family to lose eligibility, providing a disincentive to work hard and earn a raise. If CCDF subsidies were set up on a sliding scale, hard work would be rewarded.

Tweaking the CCDF program with a sliding scale is something we should do. And we should provide adequate resources for the Department of Children’s Services. But important as individual programs may be,  the inconvenient truth is that the welfare of Hoosier children is inextricably connected to the welfare of the families that are raising them.

When wage levels are too low to allow those families to provide decent housing, adequate nutrition and reliable child-care, children suffer. Recent research also suggests that the higher stress levels common to low-wage households take a particular toll on the children in those families, who arrive at school unready to learn,  and who have poorer health prospects and lower life expectancies.

A policy agenda focused upon keeping Indiana a low-wage state not only fails to create the promised jobs–it hurts children.

Politicians uniformly insist that they care about children, but aside from efforts to ensure that every conception ends in the birth of a child, I haven’t seen much evidence for that concern.