Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Paradox of Pro-Life Politics

It is only a slight exaggeration to make the claim that for pro-life Republicans, "life begins at conception and ends at birth." In an article in The American Prospect, Judith Lewis Mernit addresses the issues associated with the desire to preserve the life of every fetus during pregnancy, but to ignore the needs and requirements of the child after birth. She titles her piece The Pro-Life Paradox.

Mernit comments on the trend to enact legislation prohibiting termination of pregnancy after 20 weeks. This time specification is supposedly based on the need to protect the fetus from "pain."

"No scientific evidence exists to support the idea that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks. (Or in Arizona’s case, 18 weeks, as the law uniquely starts counting from the first day of the woman’s last menstrual period, which is typically two weeks before fertilization.) The part of the brain that registers such a sensation doesn’t develop until much later."

Mernit suggests that the true motive is something much more insidious.

"Every woman who’s ever been pregnant, however, knows what the law really means: Twenty weeks marks a crucial point in a pregnancy, when fetal abnormalities can be detected, often for the first time. Many women confronted with a grim prenatal diagnosis choose to have an abortion. Now, in Arizona, they can’t."

The results of this policy are obvious.

"The post 20-week abortion ban might preserve some healthy pregnancies, but it also forces women to deliver babies who will live for a few brief moments of extreme suffering—or to continue hopeless pregnancies that threaten their future fertility or even their life."

There is another consequence—one which defines the paradox of which Mernit writes.

"More babies will be brought into the world with chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome....Even the healthiest Down syndrome children will need special education, medical care, and social support. Depending on the child and the severity of his or her affliction, that education and care can run as high as $50,000 just in the baby’s first year."

One might think that those whose intent is to force mothers to give birth to disabled children would follow up by providing extra resources to care for the disabled, both at birth and throughout their lives.

"....even as state legislators are finding new ways to interfere with a woman’s or couple’s decisions about baby making, they are reducing the services upon which families depend. Arizona legislators have been particularly harsh. In 2009, Governor Brewer closed her state’s $1.6 billion budget gap partly by eliminating $155 million from the state’s Department of Economic Security—money that had gone toward early-education and therapy programs for the developmentally disabled. The following year, the legislature tried to ax the state’s $9 million Children’s health Insurance Program for low-income families, KidsCare....The Children’s Health Insurance Program remains but with enrollment frozen as of January 2010. In 2008, KidsCare covered close to 65,000 children; now it serves 14,000. The waiting list for the program has grown to more than 100,000."

Arizona is also one of the states that would like to overturn the recent healthcare law that prohibits insurance companies from turning away anyone based on a pre-existing condition. This intent is particularly cruel for families with disabled children.

"....after all, no condition is more pre-existing than the one you are born with."

There is evidence to back up the contention that those most ardent in anti-abortion politics are also the least interested in supporting children’s welfare efforts.

"When the Children’s Defense Fund releases its Congressional Scorecard each year, evaluating members of Congress on how they vote whenever children’s welfare issues come up, the lowest ranking members are always pro-lifers."

Republicans are proud of their fiscal conservatism. Their stated objective is to have no funded effort that is not paid for out of existing resources. The anti-abortion legislation they are so proud of will create additional children with disabilities, and additional families that will need state help in order to care for them. Where will that help come from? Will the Democrats have to come in and clean up the social messes created by Republicans—in the same way they have to clean up their economic disasters?

George W. Bush was elected by promising a "compassionate conservatism." That now seems like ancient history. The fools, knaves and nincompoops who are now in charge of his party have little interest in compassion. Rather, what arises from their zealotry is something more akin to the cruel and unusual punishment from which the Constitution is supposed to protect us.

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