In the post-Roe era, the messy democratic process has begun to sort out abortion policy and politics across the country. But another important task also lies ahead. Support for women experiencing unplanned pregnancies has always been at the heart of the pro-life movement.
Those seeking to build a culture of life are right to prioritize support for women and keep it at the center of legislative policy debates and political strategy. Legislation that focuses on supporting mothers, connecting them to the vast network of pregnancy resource centers and other aid, will empower vulnerable women to choose life for their babies and avoid the tragedy of abortion.
Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) recently introduced just such a bill, and it deserves bipartisan support. The Iowa congresswoman’s Providing for Life Act is a comprehensive pro-family legislative package that values life at all stages, including after birth. It provides the support that mothers and children need through a public-private partnership that builds, block by block, a culture of life.
Hinson’s bill, sponsored by Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in the Senate, would save countless babies and mothers from the heart-wrenching choice of abortion.
We know this bill will save babies because it reflects the latest research on why women have abortions. Most women experiencing a crisis during pregnancy do not want an abortion, but obtain one out of desperation. A May 2023 peer-reviewed study surveyed 1,000 women who had abortions and found that a staggering 60 percent said they would have carried their child to term if they had greater emotional or financial support, or both.
Sadly, two-thirds said their decision to abort violated their own values and preferences. Their “choice” was, it turns out, not really what they would have wanted. In fact, a full 24 percent described their abortion as “unwanted” or “coerced.”
Hinson’s bill is aimed at reaching that 60 percent of women who wanted to choose life but felt trapped, unsupported or coerced. A key part of Rep. Hinson’s bill is the establishment of a website called Life.gov, which is a federal clearinghouse to make known all assistance available to women. It includes resources for pregnant college-aged women, so they can continue their education.
The bill provides enhanced parental leave for working women and tax credits to ease financial burdens. For low-income mothers, there is increased eligibility for the women, infants and children program post-partum, and programs providing volunteer mentoring and peer support services. The bill also facilitates the difficult but beautiful choice of adoption.
The data suggest that if they only knew that financial, educational and emotional resources were available, more women would feel supported in their motherhood and choose to carry to term. A young woman who finds herself pregnant — a high-school girl, a college student, a 20- or 30-something professional — wouldn’t feel forced to make a “choice” that violates her beliefs or preferences. She’d have a real choice, and be able to make the choice she wants to make.
This suite of policies would offer women authentic empowerment — a far cry from the “women need abortion” message that so tragically underestimates women’s abilities and resilience.
Great policy, it turns out, is also great politics. Consider the post-Dobbs polling on public support for pregnancy resource centers. Seventy-four percent of Americans said they want public funding for such centers after learning what services the centers offer. Almost 80 percent of Republican, 72 percent of independents and 73 percent of Democrats support funding these centers.
Earlier this year, a Marist poll found even higher support for pregnancy resource centers — 91 percent support or strongly support. Backing for pregnancy resource centers among self-identified “pro-choice” respondents came in at 88 percent.
Both sides of the polarized abortion debate say they want to help women. The polling indicates that Rep. Hinson’s bill represents a bipartisan consensus on how to do just that.
There are similar bills in state legislatures across the county, and others like it in Congress. It seems like a good place to start in the post-Roe era: Help the majority of women who are seeking abortions they don’t want. Let’s prioritize this type of “pro-life safety net” legislation. It’s the best policy and political strategy for the present moment, and it will change hearts and minds, enabling further progress down the road on legislation that protects both women and children.
Maureen Ferguson is a senior fellow for The Catholic Association and co-host of the nationally syndicated radio show Conversations with Consequences.
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.